Wednesday, July 29, 2009

More on Consistency

This post was generated by the comments on yesterday's post.

Yes, consistency can be hard. It helps if you've established a track record, so that your kids know that there's nothing to be gained from whining and wheedling. If, in the past, you've caved after an extended period of whining, they know that they simply have to whine two seconds longer and you'll give in. That's not a judgment, mind you; it's a simple reality.

As Deepa said, no one can be a perfect parent or be consistent 100% of the time. Heck, I don't even strive to be perfect. I strive to be "good enough, most of the time."

However, I don't want to let it go. I want to work toward being as close to 100% consistent with my words as possible.

Maybe it's not as important to some children, but my kids' personalities demand that I mean what I say and say what I mean - there are different reasons why that's important for each kid.

There is so much in life that's out of our control: the economy, the environment, heck, the weather ... There seem to be precious few things that I can control absolutely. One of those things is my word. My ability to be someone that they can count on. My choice to be someone whom they can talk to and know - know - that what I say is true. They don't have to wonder or worry. That's one area of worry that I can completely eliminate from my children's lives.

Most people don't think that being consistent is that important. But I disagree, at least for my kids. Maybe it's not that important for some children. But for others, like mine, it's essential.

Some parents think that by giving in to their children's demands that they're doing something nice for them and their children should be grateful. They can't understand why their kids don't then appreciate them for their "gift." The thing they don't realize is that, in the kids' minds, they're not distinguishing good vacillation from bad. The parents think they're doing their kids a favor, while the kid just thinks that the parent is spineless. Even when a child is too young to realize it, they don't think, "Oh, how nice that Mommy let me gorge on candy before dinner even though she said I couldn't have any." Instead, they think, probably subconsciously, "All I had to do was scream a little louder this time and Mommy gave in. I can't really count on what she says, even when she says she really means it this time."

I think that most people see consistency as a nice goal to work toward, but not that important. Yes, it would be great not to have to argue with their children, but if the argument gets too heated, they just give in and the argument is over. After all, it's easier, right? In my mind, no, it's not easier.

Once a kid knows that you don't necessarily mean what you say ("I really mean it this time!" Sure, Mom.), the groundwork is laid for endless argument, negotiation, manipulation, and dare I say, disrespect.

Think of your friends. Have you ever had a friend who you couldn't trust to follow through? Maybe she was always thirty minutes late. Or maybe she'd show up most of the time when she agreed to meet you somewhere. Or maybe she promised to keep a secret but then let it slip ... but it's no big deal, it was just one mutual friend she told.

How do you think of that friend? Is she someone you'd go to in a crisis? What if you really needed someone to be there emotionally for you? Could you count on her when the times got really rough?

I don't want my kids to be asking themselves those questions about me, even if those questions are subconscious.

This may all sound harsh and judgmental. It's not. Not at all. It's just my take on this whole consistency thing. All I know is, I don't fight the battles with my kids that I see other parents face when they don't follow through on their word.

We fight other battles, neither harder or easier, just different.

If you liked this post, you might enjoy More on Natural and Logical Consequences.


  1. To clarify, I didn't mean "let it go" to imply "Don't try to be consistent, anymore.". I implied, "Don't let one failure make you feel like a bad parent." TOo often, in the quest for perfection, we miss the forest (for the trees).

    Plus being consistent is not the final goal. The final goal is to raise good kids. If that's possible WITHOUT consistency, I don't have a problem!!

  2. I definitely agree with "don't let one failure make you feel like a bad parent." If that were the case, we'd ALL give up!

    But your last statement is where we think differently. It's very possible--it happens every day--for parents who aren't consistent to raise good kids. I see it all the time, even with parents who are lousy by anyone's standards (neglectful, abusive, etc.) ... great kids/adults who turned out great *in spite of* their parents. (Of course, I'm making it sound like parents who aren't consistent are horrible parents, and that's simply not true, as we all know. We're all inconsistent to some degree.)

    My final goal, however, is to raise happy, well adjusted kids, who turn into adults who are fulfilled and balanced. To that goal, I think it's necessary to have established a strong parent/child relationship beginning *now*. To me, it all goes back to trust and character. I want to be a parent that my kid can count on. Consistency is more about ME, less about how my kids turn out.

  3. I don't disagree at all with the purpose behind it all. I do think though, that there're many paths to that wonderful destination. Some of those paths involve a lot of inconsistency. I am thinking in particular about a certain parent I know...(Not me!! I try to be consistent, and I think am pretty effective although I fail sometimes. I discuss the failure honestly, which really seems to make up for it).

    FOr Raji, I'd say, get him to feel like a team mate in his own upbringing. DIscuss in detail why you have certain ideas about the museum, junk food etc. In fact, in doing so, you might suddenly discover that HE was right, and maybe your idea was wrong. I usually show that I am compeltely open to being corrected. Being consistent is not about being stubborn with a bad/unfair rule.

  4. By the way, I am not anti-consistency, but my way of growing, in any role, is to periodically question my assumptions and re-evaluate them...

  5. That's a great point about engendering trust. Today I've been struggling with some disappointing choices my oldest has made and I've had the sense that for me to let things "slide" in the name of not making him sad for a while would ultimately be doing him NO favors (or our relationship, for that matter).