Stop Being a Consistent Parent
“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.”
– Denis Waitley
I have thrown consistency out the window as a parent. I’m tired of the shame I feel for not having the mental and emotional capacity to stick to a schedule, enforce a routine, and to keep screen time at a minimum. Every single week, I start a plan for consistency and end up not following through because honestly, I don’t have the energy.
And, the importance of consistency was way more about me needing to feel like a good mom and fear of judgment from others than what my son needs.
To be clear, there is some sort of routine in my house. Screens are off at a certain time, and bedtime and shower time are the same times every day. My son has chores he has to do every week. But even those get floppy depending on my own mental stamina and what we have going on that week.
I am choosing to focus on my son’s behavior, responsibility, and independence rather than the consistency of a schedule and routine. I am not a child expert, I have not read all the studies, but I’m choosing to trust myself to know what is right for my kid, and for his brain – and mine.
Don’t misunderstand me, there are "non-negotiables" in my house for my 12-year-old son: No R-rated movies or PG-13 movies that include a lot of sexual innuendo, no TikTok, no YouTube videos with consistent cussing or bullying, etc. I have a monitoring app on his phone and computer that alerts me to any possible issues and he’s aware that I monitor the app regularly. My son has a kid’s debit card and there are no purchases without my permission. There are a lot of guidelines and rules to increase a foundation of protection and curate responsibility and safety, but that’s enough for me and my kid.
All kids are different and I’m not suggesting each parent throw consistency out the window. I just know the shame and guilt we feel when we can’t follow through with all these great ideas and rules because we are emotionally drained and just plain tired. I’ve given myself permission to understand that my emotional and mental capacity on any given day is not going to be at 100% and that when my brain is not fully engaged in consistency, it’s going to slide.
Finding the right path for your brain, and your kid’s brain, isn’t easy, but it’s freeing when you can get there.
Stop reading all the parenting “expert” opinions when they don’t know your kid.
I can spend 2-3 hours scrolling through parenting articles on all the “damage” I’m doing to my kid through too much screen time, too little outside playtime, too much sugar…the list can go on and on. By the time I’m through, I feel like the worst parent on the planet and my anxiety and worry can keep me up through the night.
As a social worker, coach, and counselor, I know that parenting experts aren’t trying to make me feel like a bad parent, they’re giving me information for educational purposes that I turn into judgment because of my old brain patterns. That’s not my kid’s problem, that’s mine. So, instead, I take a big picture view of his behavior and activities.
Is he respectful to not only adults but other kids?
Is he spending time on activities that are not screen-related to give his brain a break?
How independent is he in making good decisions or do we need to roll back the independence for a while?
Your kid is your kid with a unique brain and experiences. Learn to trust yourself as their parent to do the right thing.
Stop the Mom-Guilt
How many times a day do you think you’re a bad mom? I once made a mark in my journal for each “I’m a bad mom” thought I had in my head and was shocked at the amount of mental space I allow for these thoughts.
I still struggle with this, because my anxiety just works that way and our society reinforces it. But, I’ve found a way to understand what my mental and emotional capacity is on any given day. There are ways to increase my capacity and I work on that daily, but I can’t be 100% all the time.
Here's a great way to think of this: would you tell your mom friends the junk you tell yourself? The answer is almost always “no”. Then, why are you allowing that junk to steal your joy?
Look at the bigger picture
I am raising a kind, respectful kid, who uses words like “ethical” and “I’m sad”. He holds doors open for people and is concerned about others’ emotions and experiences. Throwing in a consequence because he didn’t clean up after he cooked is not the highest on my priority list (and he cooked!!!).
The small battles can feel so big but choose the bigger ones.
The best thing we can do for our kids is to be just present – not when we want to be but when they need us to be. One of my proudest moments as a parent was when my son came to me to tell me he needed my emotional attention.
I was in the process of doing something else, and he said, “Mom, I’m trying to tell you I’m sad and you’re not listening.” Boom!!! That’s a success! He has learned that when I’m present, I’m all in. And, I have given him permission to tell me when he needs me and I’m not all there.
His ability to tell me what he needs, and trust that I’m going to give it to him, has taken years of my own healing and learning to change my brain patterns. But the gift I’m giving him of understanding what he needs, and then asking for it, will lead to a lifetime of joy and being present for his own children.
Parenting in this world is hard….there are only so many things I can control and most of it is how I choose to act as a parent. Changing "mom-guilt" can feel near impossible, but it only seems impossible until it’s done.
Mattie is a counselor, coach, and CEO of Cerebrations, LLC. With over 25 years of experience in understanding how the brain affects our emotions, reactions, and our experiences, she is passionate about empowering women to harness the power of their brain and body connection to create intentional action and deeper connections with their families. You can reach her at email@example.com or by scheduling a free consult chat.