4 Problems With Inconsistent Parenting.

We’ve all been in that place at one time or another. We hand down a consequence to our children for crossing our boundaries, but we don’t actually follow through on the punishment. The problem with this is that we may be doing more damage than we’re aware of.

GettyImages_491205057

Last week, as Kristin and I flew to Seattle to speak at Refresh Conference, we were walking through the Minneapolis airport, talking about our family, when she said something that gave me quite a gut check. “We’re doing a crappy job of following through on punishments. Our girls don’t believe us when we tell them they’re grounded.”

She was right. Lately we’ve been pretty darn bad at parenting our children with consistency. We’ve said a whole lot of serious stuff like, “If you don’t clean your room, you’re grounded!” Or, “Finish your homework or there’s no TV!” We’ve even passed down judgement on sleepovers- “There will be NO sleepover if you don’t finish your list of chores!” But our kids are looking at us with a look that says, “Yeah right!” They’re not buying it. And why should they? We’re about as steady as a leaf in the wind.

If you’re dealing with this or you feel this way, you’re not alone. We’ve written posts on this, counseled other parents on this, but suddenly we find more fingers pointing back at us. Ouch! As we’ve stepped back and taken note of our own inconsistency, we’ve recognized some big problems unfolding before us…

  1. Our kids are on to our game. Like I just said…we’re not fooling them. Especially our two teenagers. I’ve actually grounded my 12-year old from books and the library (not kidding…the library…and books! It’s the only currency we have with an introvert and book worm 🙂 ), 2 times in the last 2 months. The consequence I gave her amounted to 2 weeks without books and the library. But then I got busy, and my busyness was followed by weariness. Weariness turned into total abandon, and by the 3rd day she was back to reading books and eventually going to the library. I hadn’t come close to following through. She’s not buying it anymore when I tell her she’s grounded. She doesn’t believe me when I hand down the penalty of no books or no library. All a result of my inconsistent parenting.
  2. We erode their self-confidence. This may catch you by surprise. It sure did for me, when I realized it. Truth is, our kids crave boundaries, even if they don’t show it on the outside. This is actually a fact that I taught to parents all through my years as a family pastor, and now, suddenly, I’m learning it myself. It’s not like my kid, or yours, will rise to call us “blessed” when we discipline them, or stick to our guns on a punishment. But they will know we care, even if it’s deep in their heart of hearts. It builds their self-confidence to know they have a parent who is willing to guide them down right paths.
  3. We set our children up for failure down the road. There will be a day when a boss, an instructor, a coach, or some other authority figure, outside of us, hands down a punishment or an instruction and actually follows through. If your child is told that the next time he or she shows up late for work, they’ll be fired, they will be. If a coach or instructor demands excellence, or hard work, and the result of doing anything less is sitting the bench, or running laps, they’ll follow through. They’ll follow through because that’s their job. This is why it’s critical that we parent consistently, now, even if it hurts. We fail our children, now and in the future, by not following through on punishments or consequences while they’re under our care and supervision.
  4. We de-authorize ourselves. Our kids slowly lose respect for us as their authority figures when we’re inconsistent. I can’t tell you how many times over my 17-year family ministry career I watched this play out. Mom and dad couldn’t figure out why their son had zero respect for their rules or boundaries. A small search into their parental history revealed massive holes in their consistency as the culprit. As we parent 2 teenagers we’re seeing the same results with our rules and boundaries. We’re degrading our authority little by little, day by day. If we really are the leaders of our household, and our family, this needs to change.

Believe it or not, we can fix these problems quite easily. It’s not an overnight fix, but it is fixable. Just today, as I was finishing up this post, in fact, one of my daughters tried to skimp on her homeschool work and watch TV. I caught her and stopped it. A battle ensued. I started to feel myself growing weak and soft, but I stood my ground. “There is zero TV until your homework is finished and your room is clean!” I declared. They weren’t happy but I didn’t budge. It was hard.

It will be hard for you too. However, if this is left unchecked, you’ll face big problems, now and later on. I have creative, imaginative, and spirited kids who take every opportunity I give them to waltz into Planet Take-Advantage! I have to be on my game. So do you! It’s not easy, but it’s the only way our children will grow up to be healthy, productive adults in the future.

Question: Have you faced similar problems with your kids? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Get our latest eBook for FREE!

Weary_parent_guide_ck_form_image

Let’s be honest: parenting is exhausting. You feel worn out, foggy & can’t remember the last time you got a full night’s sleep. That’s why we’ve put together a FREE guide with easy-to-apply, rest multiplying hacks for busy parents. You’re just 9 days away from feeling rested, refreshed & reenergized!


We will never share your info with anyone! Powered by ConvertKit

Please note: We reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • As a parent, this is a great reminder.

    But I’m also seeing the same thing is important as a teacher. Recently, some students didn’t complete an assignment, and they lost recess privilege until they got it done. I wanted to back down, but I knew I couldn’t. To back down means that I’m concerned more about them liking me than about their well-being.

    That’s why Proverbs says, “He who spares the rod HATES his child.” To not discipline (out of “fear of man”) shows that I love myself more than I love them.

    • Joey, such a valid point. I have never really experienced that but I can imagine (mostly because of my own kid’s choices over the years at school) that consistency is as important in the classroom for teachers as it is with parents at home. Great input for any of our teachers who are reading. Thanks so much!

  • This is a very good point. I think it is a measure of wisdom to not back down while balancing being humble and admitting our own mistakes.

    • Meredith, absolutely! Thanks for your comment.

  • Terrific post – my wife and I were just talking about this! Consistency is hard – but being consistent TOGETHER is even harder! Love the blog.

    • Thanks so much Jason. Glad you liked the post and our blog. Keep up the good fight!

  • Janes Chiarelli

    Hello. My husband of almost 7 years, cheated on me and left me for her and is living with her now. He said he hasn’t been happy in years but never told/showed me he was unhappy. We have a 4 year old son that missed his daddy so much and cries for him to just come home. Our son even crawled all over his car crying “daddy stay home with me.” And he still left. He just keeps saying “he’s never coming back, no matter what.” I didn’t know what to anymore..he left me 5/7/15, the weekend before mothers day this year and it broke my heart and I keep praying to God and he keeps telling me “be patient” I was still trying my best but it was hard when this was hurting my son so badly. I have told my sister about this and she gave me somes advice to contact a very good and powerful prophet who can help me pray for my husband to come back and be happy with us again which i did and i contacted the prophet. he prayed for me and my husband cam home begging me to take him back and now we are happily living together and a family. all thanks to the prophet and his email is (prayerstosaverelationship@yahoo.com). May God bless you abundantly!

  • Janes Chiarelli

    Hello. My husband of almost 7 years, cheated on me and left me for her and is living with her now. He said he hasn’t been happy in years but never told/showed me he was unhappy. We have a 4 year old son that missed his daddy so much and cries for him to just come home. Our son even crawled all over his car crying “daddy stay home with me.” And he still left. He just keeps saying “he’s never coming back, no matter what.” I didn’t know what to anymore..he left me 5/7/15, the weekend before mothers day this year and it broke my heart and I keep praying to God and he keeps telling me “be patient” I was still trying my bsest but it was hard when this was hurting my son so badly. I have told my sister about this and she gave me some advice to contact a very good and powerful prophet who can help me pray for my husband to come back and be happy with us again which i did and i contacted the prophet. he prayed for me and my husband cam home begging me to take him back and now we are happily living together and a family. all thanks to the prophet and his email is (prayerstosaverelationship@yahoo.com). May God bless you abundantly!

  • Aspiring to be better

    I am really struggling with this right now. Two beautiful girls aged 3 and 7 and our home is a war zone with no boundaries or follow through to be seen. I am miserable, they run rings around me and I don’t know where to start. So pre-occupied with the anger at being left on my own and why he doesn’t want to see his own children I have over compensated for too long and it’s coming back to bite me. Just so scared they’ll hate me, but the article clearly says they won’t. Maybe tomorrow I’ll start to be brave and be the parent I want to be.

  • Trying to get better

    I am currently in the midst of this whole blog at my house. My kids spend 4 days with their mother and 2 days (my days off rotate) with me and my wife. My oldest (16) is constantly threatened with punishment, never fully followed through with, mabey because I don’t want to be the bad guy when I only see him every 4 days or for whatever the reason. My other 2 boys (8 & 12) are starting to follow down the same road as their brother and I know it has to stop now rather then later. All of this is starting to take a toll on me and my wife, and I can have that happen. My wife loves my boys and will do whatever she can for them, where my ex does nothing for 4 days. I am definitely to soft on punishment and need to change. I told my wife that I will do whatever it takes to fix all of this, once I show her I am trying she will have my back and we can move forward. Sorry about the long post, just needed to get that out of my head and into words and admit to myself that I have been failing.