21. Being Inconsistent is Part of the Process (But it Sends Mixed Messages)
If I had a dollar for every time a parent told me "I need to be more consistent" I'd be living a life of luxury on a beach somewhere :)
If being consistent, feels like a chore then you are doing this whole parenting thing absolutely perfectly :)
Sometimes it does feel like a chore....and that's usually an indicator (and nothing more).
Find out what I mean by listening to this episode (or reading the full transcript below).
And if you understand that parenting is never black and white, and ALLL about getting comfortable in the grey (the unknown where there are no guarantees), then I'm sure you'll love my free training on getting your kids to listen, which you can check out below.
Until next time, happy parenting!
Alright my friends, today we are talking about CONSISTENCY.
Now, if I had a dollar for every time someone told me they know they need to be more consistent, I’d be living the life of luxury on a beach somewhere. I’m dreaming of Costa Rica, or Bali…
Now, consistency is one of those things that parents know they need to do, but it’s almost like this boring chore they don’t want to do. Like cleaning the toilet or the garage. They know it needs to be done but ugh…. That doesn’t sound fun!
And that’s totally fine…. It does feel like a chore sometimes. And if it feels like this, this feeling alone is an indicator alone.
If you hang out with me long enough, you’ll hear me say that parenting is a process. Setting boundaries (or rules or expectations… whatever you call it) is a process. And what that means is you are in a feedback loop.
So your resistance to being consistent is TELLING YOU SOMETHING.
Now, we go over what exactly it’s telling you in my Parenting Mastery program, and if you’re curious to learn more about that, go check out my free training on how to get your kids to listen without yelling, threats, or bribes (www.parentingwithlindsay.com/FREE). I talk more in that training about the Parenting Mastery program AND teaching some really great stuff about getting your kids to listen.
Your inconsistency is telling you something. It is a NORMAL part of the parenting process, so please please please… don’t beat yourself up or berate yourself in your head because you SHOULD be more consistent.
Yes, you should… and no you shouldn’t. It could mean that the boundary or rule you’re trying to uphold is not working for you and you need to either drop it altogether or change it up. And sometimes, you’ll need to push through.
Because consistency is important for the things that matter.
Like if I want to teach my young child about water safety as we head into the summer months, I want to make sure that I am SUPER consistent, to a point that I might even have to take that child and leave the beach or the dock or the pool if they break a rule because I have a super hard line around water safety and my consistency (or lack of consistency) is my way of communicating to my child how important this rule actually is to listen to.
So I personally am SUPER consistent around water. If my child isn’t listening to me around the pool (and for context, I’m talking about how I have handled it with kids who can’t yet swim or who are still learning and my rules are going to change as they become stronger swimmers). So I’m going to be super consistent around water because in my mind, that is a life or death scenario and therefore my rules are VERY important. And in this context, it is very easy to be consistent because the overarching purpose of these rules is very clear in my mind.
Now, that’s not to say that enforcing the rules is always convenient. I have packed up and left swimming areas or have had to take my child back into the cottage or away from the water for a while… even in situations where I really want to stay at the water.
So not always convenient. Not always fun. But because that overarching purpose is so strong and I’m focused on the long-term goal of what I’m trying to achieve, it’s relatively easy to be consistent. So I’ve had to go through some short-term pain for some long-term gain, but now I can completely relax and trust my kids around water. It makes our trips to the pool or the beach that much more enjoyable.
Now for something like tidying up, I am super inconsistent. I still have a strong overarching purpose in that I want to teach my kids responsibility, good habits, and respect for our things and for our home and for me even, because I find it more relaxing when it's tidy (and quite frankly, it’s easier for the kids too).
But my higher purpose is not life or death.
And there are also some competing interests at play here…. Sometimes it makes sense to leave things out, like an unfinished lego creation, or a painting to dry, or we just got a new toy and we haven’t yet found a spot to put it away yet. Or, we really need to get out the door so we just leave everything and go.
So we leave things out on a semi-regular basis, and I’m OK with that.
But then there are other days where I want EVERYTHING tidied up. And I get annoyed with my kids for not listening right away, or when they complain and resist what I’m asking.
But the thing is… that’s totally on me. Why wouldn’t they resist and question and push back? Why would they jump up and tidy up everything when half the time I let them leave a few things out?
They resist because I’m inconsistent and my inconsistency sends them mixed messages. It says that some days it’s not important to tidy up and some days it is, and they’re trying to figure out why.
Why is it that some days they can leave things out and some days they can’t?
They don’t understand. And quite frankly neither do I… some of my decisions are quite arbitrary. So it’s unrealistic for me to expect that my kids will know.
So in situations like these, like my tidy-up example, we tend to get really frustrated at our kids for not listening, we might even feel like they’re ignoring our requests and it’s quite disrespectful, and then after we try a few of the gentle and positive parenting strategies we end up yelling, threatening to throw all of their toys in the donate pile, or defaulting to another tactic that isn’t what we want to be using but we’re so beyond frustrated we don’t know what else to do. Nothing else works.
So is it the strategies that aren’t working?
Or is it that you’re sending them mixed signals and they don’t know on any given day how serious you are?
The more you are consistent with your kids, the more clear you’re being on where that hard-line is, and the more they’ll listen automatically… and then it’ll become like a habit and they’ll just do it. Like my example of my kids around water.
The more that we can understand and fully in our being understand that parenting is a process, and it’s totally fine that everything is not like a well-oiled machine (and in fact, it never will be), then we can start to really take a step back and evaluate where in the process things have gone sideways, we can understand our role in it (we always have one) and then how to get things back on track with our kids. Or whether we need to drop the rule completely or switch it up a bit.
It’s never about “I need to be more consistent” and in our mind putting ourselves down for not being more consistent… all that mind chatter means is that there’s something in the process of parenting or in the process of setting boundaries that isn’t quite working. It’s an indicator. Nothing more.
No need to get mad at your car when the gas light comes on. It’s just an indicator notifying you that something needs to be done.
No need to get mad when you start having the feelings of “I should be more consistent”... because it’s just an indicator that something might need to change.
And if you want to learn more about what these indicators are telling you, make sure you go check out that free training I mentioned earlier on getting your kids to listen without yelling, threats, or bribes. It is a really great training that I know you’ll love.
And until next time, happy parenting!
FREE Training for Moms
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