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If I had to list my biggest parenting challenge, it would be summed up in two words: consistent parenting.
The importance of consistency, particularly in discipline, has been well documented by child psychologists and parenting experts. It’s been drilled into our heads since those first parenting books we devoured as newly-minted moms.
But I’ve had an epiphany lately that I need to make sure I’m not “majoring on the minors” when it comes to applying consistency to every aspect of my kids’ lives.
Hear me out:
Kids need stability. They need rules. They need routines and to know what to expect, in general, from day to day.
But if you’re like me and you’re already aware of these concepts, it can be easy to beat yourself up when you realize your consistency-meter isn’t always in perfect working order.
Narrowing it down: When Consistency Matters Most
I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about this issue. I’ve wondered why it’s so hard for me to have the same dinner time routine every day or get bathtime done on time, or remember kindergarten snack day every month. (Why oh why is that so hard?)
I’m just not as consistent as I want to be in every single area of my life, much less as a parent.
But instead of worrying about all the ways I don’t measure up, I’m learning to major on the majors.
Here are 4 areas I think consistency really matters most, as it most effects my kids’ spiritual formation and relationship with God.
Reigning in our kids’ behavior is the area most of us realize the need for consistency, and I would agree it’s tremendously important, overall.
We’ve always been taught that if we give in just ONCE to whining, back talk or a plethora of other bad behaviors, our kids will continue to push our limits each and every time, just waiting for us to crack.
You’ve probably noticed this to be true in many scenarios. Kids are much smarter than we give them credit for!
And we know that appropriate discipline sets a pattern for respecting authority and ultimately, obedience to God.
So discipline is important, and we can’t underestimate the power of setting healthy boundaries for our kids.
Yet – being led by God and understanding our kids is equally important
Every now and then, though, we might suspect there are other issues underlying the behavior – illness, a bad day at school, or something else that’s bugging them.
This is where I think we have to rely on those mama-instincts and know our kids. There are times we need to change-up the discipline script and spend some time investigating the cause a little further.
We have to learn to parent the very heart of our child, instead of just applying rigid one-size fits all consequences to every negative behavior.
It doesn’t make us an inconsistent parent to withhold immediate punishment in favor of grace now and then, especially if the Holy Spirit is nudging us that something is out of character in our child’s behavior.
It’s kind of like when you feel motivated to help someone in need. You’re probably not going to hand out dollar bills to every single person holding a sign on the street corner, but if you feel that holy “nudge”, you might that time.
And ultimately it’s up to our children to decide what to do with that grace: to abuse it or learn from it. They can take unfair advantage of our kindness, for sure.
But they might also tuck that lesson away for a day when they need to show grace to someone else.
As Christian parents, what we “feed” our children spiritually is just as important as the food that goes into their bodies.
With so many conflicting messages vying for our kids’ attention through various forms of media, I think it’s more important than ever that we are training our kids to be grounded in the Word, day after day.
We need to be consistent in our communication of the Word, and just as consistent in living our lives to match what we’re communicating with our mouths.
This is where lack of consistency will be noticed the most by our kids, especially as they grow into the tween and teen years.
Our theology might never be perfect, but we can do our best to be accurate according to our own study and time spent in prayer and applying discernment.
One of the best ways we can grow our kids to be critical thinkers is to make sure WE know why we believe what we believe. Our own defense of our faith lays the foundation for how our kids understand – and accept or reject, their own faith.
(P.S., These podcasts for Christian women are another resource that can help to expand your understanding of the culture our kids are growing up in, and making sure that your theology is consistent with what the Bible teaches.)
3| Love and Support
The unconditional love that God has for us is consistent throughout Scripture. It’s evident from Creation to Revelation: God spared nothing to communicate His love for us.
And as parents, our love should be modeled in the same way.
We have to love them through the difficult toddler behaviors, the trying teen years and everything in between.
We have to love by God’s standards, though, and not the world’s- because He IS love. It’s not the kind of “love” that shields us from every heartache that we bring on ourselves; it often does quite the opposite.
He gives us space to learn, and to grow and to make mistakes. But he also gives wisdom to anyone who asks, and open arms to receive us back whenever we go astray.
How our kids perceive our love is one of the things we can’t always control. But we can be consistent in applying it lavishly, anyhow.
In time, I believe that love which is patterned after God’s love will speak much louder than any lecture we might give.
If we can be for them – regardless of their attitudes, faults and failures- just as God is for us, they will continue to come to us, and hopefully to a saving knowledge of Jesus.
We can’t forget that love comes with sacrifice, and it is often the very proof of a life surrendered to God.
What are we giving up for our kids and for God? Our money, sanity, and our waistline are just a few things that come to my mind as a mom. 🙂
But the real question is, do our sacrifices reflect our true priorities? Do our kids see us spending time with God each day, or do our tightly-orchestrated schedules even allow it?
Do we carve out time to take our kids to church on a consistent basis? We might say that we can “worship God anywhere”, but if we’re in those other places, are we truly focused on worship?
I think of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are persecuted for their faith every day all over the world. And I am confronted with the fact that my sacrifice is so small, and yet my freedom is great.
In an age of digital distraction, it’s so easy to fill up our days with activity and let our to-do lists outweigh our should-do lists.
The bottom line is: our heart’s cry will be reflected in whatever we pursue the hardest.
And because self-denial is an uncommon sacrifice in our comfy corner of the world, one thing we can be sure of: it won’t go unnoticed by our kids.
The Four “Majors” of Consistent Parenting
There are probably many other things I could add to this list. And you may have a much longer list of your own “majors” that you want to focus on as a Christian parent.
But in the interest of prioritizing, I think if we get these four things right, we’re applying consistency in the areas that truly matter the most.
When we’re in the thick of parenting, overwhelmed with how every little decision might affect our kids’ lives, we can simply narrow it down to these major concepts.
Whenever I do this, I’m also reminded that intentionally pursuing God’s best for our kids comes with the exact measure of grace needed for the task at hand.