Thursday, March 24, 2011

Consistency...vice or virtue?

Growing up, I always heard people talk about the importance of "consistency" in parenting. People with all different approaches to parenting seemed to sing the praises of this concept. I absorbed this information, and when I became a mother, I believed it was vitally important to "be consistent" in child training. Lately however, I've been thinking long and hard about this term, and asking the question, "Is consistency really one of the greatest virtues of parenting? And if so, what exactly does it mean?"

The other day, a thought struck me like a ton of bricks: If consistent parenting means to punish every single time a child does something wrong, or punish all offenses with the exact same method, then God himself is an inconsistent parent, and there is no room for showing grace or mercy to our children! This simply cannot be right. I think there is much room for danger in trying to administer punishment "consistently." (The only exception to this I can see is in training young toddlers. Since language is not developed yet, it is helpful to use the same consequences for certain offenses, so that they understand "When I do X, Y will occur.") So, should we strive to be consistent with our kids? My recent conclusion: Absolutely! So what do I mean by the term "consistent"? I'd advocate mirroring consistency as we find it in God. He is a reliable, trustworthy, and faithful Father. He does sometimes give harsh consequences for our sins, and yet He is exceedingly gracious and merciful.
On this note, I'd like to post the section of scripture that has most influenced the way I approach parenting:
"The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust." Psalm 103:8-14
That last part just blows me away. The natural compassion I have towards my children is the way God has chosen to relate to me, someone who was His enemy. wow. But back to my point. He REMEMBERS that we are dust. He knows we are weak and going to fail repeatedly, and though He has the right to punish us immediately, He is instead long suffering. He gently corrects and redirects His children.  He allows us to repent and try again. And He even goes as far as to send the Redeemer to die as a blood offering for our sins. I can't tell you how often I forget that my children are dust. I get angry and want to punish them when they sin against me.I'm so grateful for a Father who remembers. So now I seek to remember their humanity and my own. I want to be someone who is a consistent person--a mother they can depend on to love them well. Sometimes this means showing compassion and mercy on their human weaknesses and sometimes the most loving thing is a hard consequence or punishment. But in either case, I have forsaken the idea of consistent discipline. The consistency I aspire to is consistency in who I am and how I relate to my children.  


Mike and Christie said...

Excellent Post Becca! :)

dulce de leche said...

Beautiful verses! I agree with you completely. I know that I also make mistakes, and I don't want to teach my children to never reconsider or to stubbornly persist in a mistake because of pride, and that has influenced my view on the whole consistency thing, too.

Ivy said...

Amen Becca! I too have found "consistency" as many adhere to it to be consistently unhelpful. ;-) Another reason I don't like it is-- I reserve the right to change my mind about something! If I decide that the way I was previously handling something wasn't right, I can do something different! I don't feel like I have to keep doing X just to appear consistent when I have learned that it isn't the best for my child. God progressively reveals parenting wisdom to us and if we are so hung up on consistency I think we will be less likely to listen to Him.

Rebecca said...

Thanks for the encouragement, ladies! And those are both excellent points--thanks for your comments. =)

Susan said...

Well Put! I think a lot of what was meant by consistency in "those days" was that we don't tell our children we are going to have this or that consequence for this or that wrongdoing, and then not follow through. One wouldn't for instance want to be a "consistently" bad parent or "consistenly cruel"...consistant as opposed to capricious. God is never capricious.

One thing that is true of us however, that is not true of God, is that we do evolved in our parenting, because we are fallen creatures who do learn as we go, Lord willing. We also suffer from all sorts of sins, infirmities etc, that make our parenting troubled at times, ie, impatience, frustration, fatigue,etc. By God's grace, He often raises our children to His Glory, not just because of what we've done, but in SPITE of what we've done.
(-: Love, Mum