"For I am the LORD, I change not" (Malachi 3:6a).
Consistent parenting is a key ingredient for successful homeschooling. Offering structure and predictability, it eliminates daily discipline headaches that hinder learning and builds a firm foundation of trust within your family's relationships. Like God's loving discipline of His children, consistent parenting offers your children repeated and reliable outcomes that help them feel safe and make sense of the world around them.
What makes it hard to be a consistent homeschool parent?
Physical exhaustion - At the end of a long day, overworked parents may find it easy to ignore rules. For example, rather than making your child learn responsibility by picking up her toys before bed like she's supposed to, you just want to finish the day and save time by quickly doing it yourself.
Emotional challenges - Whining, complaining, and sibling disputes can overwhelm even the best homeschool mom or dad. With our reserves drained, it's easy to blurt out the first thing that comes to mind to resolve a situation rather than thinking about what it will take to enforce what we say. We may even lose hope facing the same battles day after day and begin to second guess if what we're doing really makes a difference. Plus, who enjoys being the "bad guy" who always has to dish out discipline?
Unexpected events - Daily interruptions and distractions can upset a normal homeschooling routine, creating time pressures that cause parents to feel behind and sacrifice character-building moments for completing academic lessons. Instead of dealing with our children's uncooperative attitude or laziness, we bypass the time necessary to discipline, so we can hurry on with the day's activities.
What can you do to parent more consistently?
Plan Ahead - As parents, it's crucial to set expectations and rules for your homeschool family. By taking action ahead of time, you establish pre-determined parameters that reduce the natural tendencies to get frustrated or yell when correcting your children's inappropriate actions. Rather than parenting in a reactive mode, you can become more consistent by implementing the following:
-Meet with your spouse and strategize a unified front. Also, set regular times to revisit your decisions and tweak as necessary, especially as children grow older.
-Discuss the current family discipline issues.
-Write down the proper behaviors desired.
-Determine age-appropriate consequences and evaluate what lessons your children will learn from them.
-Establish routines for bedtime, chores, meals, bath time, and homeschooling.<br >-Compose a written family contract that clearly communicates the plan.
-Ask for your older children's input to engage them in the process.
-Explain the rules and consequences for breaking them, have everyone sign the agreed upon contract, and post it somewhere it can clearly be seen by all.
Follow through - As sure as the sun rises each morning, you can expect resistance. Little ones may pout or have tantrums, and teens may argue and talk back. Your children will challenge your family's new boundaries, but stand firm. Instead of looking for immediate relief and letting things slide, consider the long-term issues. Now's the time to not only say what you mean, but also to exert the extra effort required to mean what you say. When you issue a warning, only give it once. Simply say in a clear, firm tone, "If you do this again, this will happen." If your child does it again, don't get into an argument or discussion. Just get up and follow through on what you said. Also, be sure not to offer promises or say idle comments you have no intention or way of enforcing.
If you've been inconsistent in your parenting in the past, be aware that it may take weeks or months before you see results. As your child pushes back on your new family rules, don't lose hope. Be persistent and keep the goals and limits clearly in front of you to stay on track. Most importantly, don't forgot to reinforce positive behavior by acknowledging your children's actions when they do things right.
Practice what you preach - Consistent parenting must start with modeling the boundaries God has given you. Don't allow homeschooling demands to take your focus off the Lord. Rather, know yourself and be mature in Christ, abiding by the Bible's standards and Spirit-led goals. Without God's support and strength, your decision making will sway from day to day, causing you to be undependable. To create the secure environment your children need, you must win over laziness, pride, insecurities, and selfishness to do what you know is right, so your children see you as trustworthy and true.
Remember, too, that no parent is perfect. Learn from your mistakes and teach your children how to respond appropriately to disobedience. For example, if you are quick to anger and fail to model Christ-like love to your child, ask your child for forgiveness. Then, in the presence of your child, come before the Lord in prayer, confessing your sin to God and thanking Jesus for dying on the cross for your salvation.
Without a doubt, consistent parenting is hard work, but take heart. It was God who gave you these children to love in the first place, and He will give you the wisdom to be an effective Christian parent. Your children will be happier, and you'll become the calm, content, and consistent homeschool parent you've always desired to be.
What's the one thing that's helped you become more consistent as a homeschool parent? Please share your advice in the comment field below.