When It’s Best Not to be Consistent

I am a man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times.

 ~Everett Dirksen

Childrearing experts tell us we need to be consistent in order to be good disciplinarians. However, Lynn Benjamin, Certified Parenting Educator and Marriage & Family Therapist, wisely says, “I often remind parents that being ‘consistently flexible’ rather than ‘rigidly consistent’ promotes a positive relationship with their children and sometimes heads off unnecessary power struggles.”

 Sounds good in theory but how can a parent put it into practice? Here’s an example: The summer my son turned 10, nothing was more important to him than riding his bike; ramps were built, accessories were bought, and fun was being had. Then school started. The rule in our house always was, “You have to do your homework as soon as you come home from school.” My son begged me to let him ride the minute he got off the bus. But what about the rule? Wasn’t I supposed to be consistent?

If I rigidly enforced the “homework right after school rule,” my son would probably be angry and frustrated, increasing the odds that he wouldn’t do his homework properly anyway. So, trying to balance flexibility with consistency, I let him ride his bike on the condition that he complete his homework right after riding. Knowing my son like I do, I was sure that he would stick to his word. We avoided a battle and my son knew that I cared about him and trusted him.

There are exceptions, however, to the consistently flexible issue; rules that pertain to safety, for instance, cannot be broken. Wearing your helmet all the time when bike riding is a must! But depending on the situation and your particular child, I give you permission to break a hard-and-fast rule because it can sometimes be more effective to bend the rules than to blindly stick to them.

By Claire Gawinowicz, Certified Parenting Education

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