Parents: Consistency is Key
Whether it’s enforcing the rules of the house, following through with disciplining your children, doing your monthly budget, or going to bed on time...being consistent is probably one of the most difficult things people face in life.
Why so difficult? Life gets busy, you’re exhausted from the day, each day only has a surprisingly short 24 hours, work runs late one evening because of that big project due, traffic, mental exhaustion, lack of sleep, financial stress, etc.
What doesn’t change though is that when we’re shown consistency by another person it communicates how they value us and their commitment to us. It makes us feel cared for and treated fairly. When your boss gives you that raise like your contract says, when your friend shows up on time for your weekly meeting, when you get that email every week that you’re expecting to update you on your project’s progress, even when you get pulled over for speeding when the very knowledge that “the speed limit on this road is and always has been ___” helps us to deal with the consequences, however much we don’t like them.
Consistency gives us stability and enables us to set our expectations in a healthy way. When consistency is lacking, fairness seems to be lacking, the feeling of being valued seems to be lacking, bad habits are started, and consequences feel like they’re overbearing because, after all, you weren’t expecting this!
The same goes with us and our relationship with God. If God was constantly moving the “fences” that he has so lovingly established then it would be hard to know when we’re outside those boundaries. Thankfully, God is the most consistent person you WILL EVER meet. He’s our model for this virtue. He hasn’t changed and he won’t change. Jesus, the full and perfect image of God, doesn’t change either as it says in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."
Still, we may sometimes wish God wouldn’t be so consistent and would “give us a break” from the conviction we feel when we run into those fences he’s placed in our lives. When we lose our temper, give in to our sinful nature, or know we ought to apologize first but don’t want to, we feel the firm, immovable boundaries he has placed in our lives. Like scraping against a guardrail, chipping our paint and bending our bumper in order to keep us on the road.
We don't really want that from God though. We may be frustrated at the damage from hitting the guardrail over and over again but imagine if there wasn’t one…we would then see the terrifying abyss that we’d have surely plunged into by living outside of God’s will.
When we do follow, obey, and accept the consistent boundaries that God’s given us there’s a sweet and true freedom in knowing that those boundaries are there for a reason, namely, God loves you and God knows best. It’s those fences that allow us to live in safety and peace as we navigate life...when we go outside those boundaries our very life is at stake.
Enter the parent-child relationship. The ultimate test of your consistency and a daily humility check for your soul. What seems like God’s way of proving to you that you’re not as consistent as you always thought you were! I have story after story of times where I’ve not enforced my own rules, where I’ve changed consequences from day to day, or gave in when I saw those puppy dog eyes of my 2 year old daughter.
The beautiful thing about God’s consistency is that it sets the standard for me...he’s the one that calls us to consistency because he calls us to be like Him! So, no matter how I feel about my own consistency, I have a constant and consistent God that consistently encourages me to be more consistent :-)
Recently, I was in the car with my daughter and on our way home. She was falling asleep in the back seat and, as most parents know, that can derail the long afternoon nap time you were looking forward to. I rapidly searched on YouTube for an episode of Daniel Tiger...a magical show about an elementary age tiger that somehow rouses my daughter from even the most extreme exhaustion.
So, I told her she could watch one episode of Daniel Tiger on my iPhone. I gave her the phone and she was content (and awake!) for the rest of the ride home. When we got to the house, it was nap time and I proceeded to get her out of the car. I paused the video, began unbuckling her from her car seat, and said, “Alright sweet girl, it’s time for a nap!”
A look of shock spread over her face and tears welled up in her little eyes. She respectfully protested “Tiger Daddy? Tiger? Watch a show?” and I said, “Sweet girl, it’s time for a nap now.” She muscled down her protest hiding it behind a quivering lip and tear filled eyes...her obedience to my wishes and the fact that she didn’t throw a fit encouraged me but the extremely sad scene made me pause.
All of a sudden, it dawned on me. I had told her she could watch an episode of Daniel Tiger. The episode was not finished. I was not following through with what I had given permission for, I was changing what I had said because it was more convenient for me. The words of Ephesians 6:4 began echoing in my head: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
I paused, swallowed my pride, thanked the Holy Spirit for convicting me, and then said, “Honey, you’re right baby girl. I apologize for going back on what I said. Daddy said you could watch one episode of Daniel Tiger and the episode wasn’t over...how about this, why don’t we go into the house and you and I can sit on the couch and finish watching Daniel Tiger together and then you can go down for a nap. How does that sound?” Her quivering lip began to settle down and she said, “Okay Daddy.”
Now, however small or trivial that story may seem, the principle illustrated is this: if I tell my daughter something, whether it’s “you may do this…” or “you may not do this…” it is my responsibility and duty as a parent to consistently follow through on that. When I don’t do that, I frustrate my daughter and make it harder for her to obey. Furthermore, when I’m in the wrong, it’s my duty and responsibility to consistently repent and ask for forgiveness.
The beautiful thing is, that when I do this for my daughter, I can then expect it from her because I’m modeling it for her. I’m setting an example of consistency for her just like God sets an example for me.
“All that is good and well, but how in the world do I do that in the moment?! I feel so inconsistent...how do I get back on track and grow in consistency?!”
Here are 6 practical things to help you get back on track with your parenting consistency (and consistency in other areas of life too!)
Look to Jesus
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” -Hebrews 12: 1-2
Did you see it in that verse? Jesus is the founder and perfecter of our faith and he endured the cross on our behalf for the joy that was set before him. Jesus did it for JOY! The same applies in parenting. When we lose focus of the goal of parenting and discipline, namely, to disciple our children in such a way that they will become life-long followers of Jesus, it’s so easy to get caught up in the difficulties of the moment. When I keep my focus, however, and think of my daughter one day living a life deeply satisfied in relationship with Jesus my heart soars with joy and I remember why I’m doing what I’m doing.
Don’t neglect your time with God (preferably in the morning)
If I start my day without first being filled and re-envisioned for who God is to me and how amazing Jesus is (like Hebrews 12 above), how patient he is, how kind he is, how loving he is, how consistent he is then I’ve got no chance of doing this on my own steam.
Go to bed on time so you don’t neglect your time with God!
Cut Netflix. Cut Hulu. Cancel your subscriptions if you need to. Don’t let an hour or two of (most often pretty worthless) TV shows rob you of the one meeting every day that you can’t afford to miss.
Wake up at the same time every day
That’s right, a regular routine, even if you’re tired will help you grow in your consistency because it will help train you to say no to yourself even when you’re tired. Say no to snoozing and put your alarm clock across the room. You’ll be rested, less quick-tempered, and able to think more clearly in the moment. I’m preaching to myself here as well.
Cast Vision for Yourself Every Morning!
Make it a point to cast vision for yourself and your spouse every day! My wife Meredith and I do this on a regular basis for one another especially when we feel or sense the other needs encouragement. If you’re a single parent like my mother, ask a close friend to text you an encouragement to be consistent everyday or to ask you how your consistency in parenting is going when they see you. Or, write it on your bathroom mirror, whatever you need to do to keep it in front of you.
Set aside dedicated time to pray for your parenting and ask the Holy Spirit to remind you/convict you when you’re not being consistent. DEDICATED time is important...not in the car on the way to work or while you’re cooking dinner...you can pray then too, but there’s nothing like dedicated, set apart, time. Maybe before bed, or during your lunch break or whenever just so long as there is nothing else is happening so you can focus and to talk to God.
Consistency is key. Consistency will bless your children. It will set up boundaries for them that they can rely on. Focus on becoming a consistent disciple of Jesus, a consistent parent, and it will be passed on to your children. It will allow them to know where the boundaries are so they steer clear of them and avoid sin. It will allow them to know the freedom they have within the boundaries you’ve put in place and, when they’re adults, the freedom they have within the boundaries God has put in place.
Be encouraged parents! Your labor is not in vain. “...let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” - Galations 6:9