Consistency. Bringing up Kids God's Way, Part 6: The Relationship, Part D: Issues, Part iii


"But you're not being fair, mom!"

How many times haven't we all heard THAT statement!

What about this one? "Yesterday you let me! Why can't I today???"

And here's my all-time favorite: "But dad said I could!"

Over the last few weeks, we've seen how important it is to help our children learn to trust -- others, as well as God! We've seen that in order to teach them to trust, we need to be trustworthy ourselves. We need to lead exemplary lives, trusting God first and foremost, and we need to keep our promises. There is one more vital part of trust building that must be addressed: Consistency!

Consistency is a must when you are dealing with children. If your answer is "yes" today, but "no" tomorrow, then it will be perceived as being inconsistent and you will lose credibility and trust. If we are tolerant one day and intolerant the next, the children in our lives will not know what to expect. They won't understand why it was "okay" yesterday, but it isn't "okay" today. Then there's the interfamilial consistency that we need to consider as well. If you say "yes", but dad says "no", then one of you will be labelled "cool" and the other "uncool". And if you allow something that the other parent does not allow, then you will be teaching them that they don't need to respect and obey the other parent.

It all makes perfect sense, doesn't it? The only problem is that we all know that consistency is far easier on paper than it is in real life! Why? Because there will be times when it's okay to say "yes", while there will be other times when it's better to say "no". There will be days when you are feeling more tolerant than others. And we all know that parents always have different ideas about things, and interfamilial inconsistency is the norm rather than the exception. So what do we do?

Here are just a few suggestions that have worked in my home. I only pray that they will spark some ideas in your own home that will help you to be more consistent in your parenting.

1. Always have a good reason for your actions, especially if they might be interpreted as "inconsistent". Be sure to share your reasons with your child. (Please join us for the upcoming devotional, Bringing Up Kids God's Way, Part 8, for more on the importance of explaining yourself.)

2. Make it a habit of being open with your kids. If the banging on the piano was okay yesterday, but today you have a splitting headache and can't tolerate it, then sit down with them and explain yourself. But don't just say: "Stop it! I've got a headache!" More appropriate would be something like this: "I am really happy to see you playing the piano! You're going to make a good musician some day, especially the way you are so diligent about practicing! But I have a really bad headache today. Have you ever had a headache? Where you feel like something is trying to pound your brains against your skull to make mashed potatoes out of them? Well, that's how my head feels today, and any little noise is just making it pound harder. Do you think you could find something quiet to do for a little while, and save your piano practice for when my head feels better?"

3. In the case where one parent says "yes" and the other says "no", you need to choose your battles carefully. If this is a habitual pattern, perhaps you and your spouse need to have a serious chat. And if you can't get them to see things your way, maybe it's time to re-evaluate the way you see them-re-evaluate your own reasons.

There are times when I've taken my kids aside and talked with them. "I know your dad said it was okay to do that, despite the fact that I told you not to. I haven't had a chance to sit down and talk with him about why I said "no", so I don't think he sees the whole picture. But I really believe that this time, it really isn't for the best that you go out and play in the woods, and here are my reasons: First of all, you only have fifteen minutes before we have to leave for Michael's birthday party. It's not really enough time. Secondly, it's been raining and you'll get all muddy. Again, no time to change your clothes. Finally, it turned really cold since the last time you were outside, and both of you are just getting over colds. Now, after hearing all of this, what do you think you should do?"

Other times, I've said, "I said you couldn't go out into the woods today, but your dad says it's okay. I didn't want you to go because of the mosquitoes today, but he reminded me that you've been working hard all day and getting out of the house would do you good. I see his point. So go ahead, but don't forget to put on the mosquito repellent!"

The point I am trying to make is this: Consistency is very important. It helps to build credibility, it helps your kids to know they can always turn to you, and it helps them build trust in you.

There will be times when you just cannot be consistent. In these times, be prepared to discuss your reasons and explain yourself. When you do so, your children will understand the reason for the inconsistency, and in many cases, will agree with your decisions.

God bless each of you as you strive to lead the children in your lives in the ways of the Lord!

Lyn Chaffart

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