If there was one single skill I wish every parent I worked with possessed, it would be consistency. You being predictable and consistent in your responses to your child helps your child learn new things, feel safe at home, and connect with other adults across their lifespan.
Sadly, consistency is also the HARDEST thing for parents to do some days. When your child is throwing a tantrum in the grocery store, the last thing you want to think is “I need to be consistent with denying my child a candy bar.” Because if you stay consistent, your child will likely continue to scream for some time. Who wants that?
But consider the other choice: giving in and giving your child that candy bar. What did your child just learn? For one thing, they learned screaming in grocery store=candy bar. Huh. I wonder what they will do next time they want candy. For another thing, they learned mom or dad can be pushed around to do what they want. And all it costs them is a sore throat. And they learned that Mom or Dad is not able to follow through with statements and promises, such as “No, you may not have a candy bar.” That does not help kids feel safe! To your kid, you are their greatest protector, their shield from the world. If you can’t follow through on a candy bar, will you be able to follow through when you promise them safety, love and care? You child might wonder.
If you know you struggle with being consistent, you need to figure out what it will take for you to be consistent. If you are consistent in one way, but your co-parent isn’t consistent or has very different standards for your child, that is also an issue that you need to work on with your co-parent. Consistency is a virtue that can be learned and practiced, but it takes having a plan and the mental resources to follow through, every day.
The first step is being really honest with your self about when it is hard to be consistent. Are there any common denominators to when you struggle with consistency? Maybe it is hardest to be consistent in public, because you don’t want to be embarrassed. Maybe it is hardest at night, when you are tired. If you figure out where it is hardest, you will be able to make plans for how to remain consistent at those times. Sometimes thinking through how you want to respond is enough to help you respond in that way. Sometimes you might need more of a push or support from your co-parent or a friend.
As a therapist, a large part of my job when working with parents is helping them find ways to be consistent with their kids. I know it is hard! But I believe you can do it and I am committed to help you find your way to being consistent. Once you can do that, many other skills I teach will fall into place.