Since becoming a mom over three years ago, I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been told to “be consistent.” It seems to be the catch phrase of modern parenting; but, if I’m being honest, it has always kind-of stressed me out.
I get that children benefit from consistency. That, obviously, makes perfect sense to me… in theory. I really admire parents that stick to a perfect schedule, that have very solid rules – like “only 30 minutes of screen time per day” or “no one leaves the table until everyone is finished eating,” etc. But, for me, it’s always been very difficult to actually put into practice. Our life just isn’t always consistent… Some nights we read six books before bed, and some nights we hurry through one. Some days I need twenty extra minutes to finish dinner so I play another episode of Daniel Tiger, and other days I don’t turn on the TV at all.
In all honesty, as much as I want to be consistent as a parent, a lot of my decisions are made based on how I’m feeling, what our schedule looks like, etc. on that particular day.
I realize some of you are thinking I’m the worst mom ever about right now. (Thankfully, three years into this gig, I’ve learned to be mostly OK with the fact that someone will think that about just about everything I do.) BUT, for those of you that can relate, consider this…
A few weekends ago when I was with my college girlfriends discussing all things parenting, one of them – who is a pediatric physician’s assistant – said the following:
“Thinking you can be consistent ALL the time is unrealistic. Real consistency just means that – ‘I am mom, and whatever I say goes – EVEN if I change my mind or “what I say” is different from day to day.'”
Man, hearing that, I felt like a giant weight was lifted off my shoulders. If that’s what consistency in parenting really is all about, then I might actually be pretty decent at it.
At our house, when there is whining or complaining about something, I simply say – “Who makes the decisions?” and Sam faithfully replies, “Mom” (or “Mom and Dad” as the case may be). And, really, it works pretty well about 95% of the time.
Of course there are some things I try to be a little more regular with – we never allow hitting, for example – but, overall, I’m a big fan of this approach. I like that it establishes me as the one “in charge,” but also acknowledges that I am a human – not a robot. Some days (like when I was 10 weeks pregnant, nauseous, and exhausted) I might happily allow Sam to spend an hour emptying out every drawer in our kitchen; but, other days (like yesterday) I might not tolerate that for even a few minutes. The consistency here is that whatever I say goes…
What do you think about this perspective on being a consistent parent?
What works for you in this area with your family?