Pillars of Parenting - Consistency {AKA: The REAL Work}

t this point, if you have followed the Pillars of Parenting series, you have learned about relationship, values, how to align your rules and expectations to your values, and how to approach keeping your kids accountable to the rules and expectations in your family. So now here we are, ready to discuss the final step- Consistency.

Consistency is what I would call the “Real Work. Understanding all the pillars is incredibly important. It’s the what and how of the “to do” list. However, consistency has more to do with the “doing” part of the “to do list. You’ve come to a better understanding of what to do and how to make the changes in your family that you are looking for, but unless you take consistent action toward these changes, nothing can really be different.  We can’t just KNOW what to do, we have to actually DO IT…as in all the time….every day….even when it’s difficult….and yes, this is the hard part of parenting.

I can know how to eat right and exercise to lose weight. I can absolutely know that these are the actions it will take to drop some pounds. And I can totally do that on any single given day. I can even do it really, REALLY well ONE whole day! However, after a day or two and skipping some really enticing opportunities to eat some favorite, not-so-healthy things, my willpower can get shot pretty quickly and, next thing you know, I’m two pizza slices and a side of cake down at that weekend’s birthday party. Taking the correct action really well for one single day will not move the scale, will not help me fit into my skinny jeans, and will not help me make progress toward my goals. CONSISTENT ACTION is what will create progress toward any goal including positive changes in your family.

Keep in mind I said consistent. I did NOT say “perfect.”

So here are some things to understand about consistency when it comes to parenting. Consistency not only has the power to create lasting change but also has other magical powers - like creating better trust and bonds in your family and helping to keep negative emotions to a minimum. It’s kind of like good tires on a car. Not only are they going to get you where you need to go, but they’ll make the ride smoother through the rough spots as well.

Consistent Action = Change  

As mentioned already, no lasting change typically comes without consistent action. It will never be enough to know what to do, you actually have to do it, over and over and over again. I think we are clear on this aspect, so moving on….

Consistent Action = Better Trust

So, you may be thinking, “How on earth does consistently putting my kid in time out when they won’t follow my directions make them trust me more?” But here’s the thing - when we respond to their emotions and behaviors in a consistent way we are teaching them where the boundary is for those things. Over time, when they experience these consistent responses and boundary setting, they begin to subconsciously feel they can TRUST us to keep them safe.

Consistent Action = Better Relationship

In addition consistent action builds better relationships because kids begin to trust and expect how you will respond to them. They have less fear in what will come down the pipe when they mess up or break a rule and instead can trust you - and the process you’ve created - to keep them accountable for their actions.

Consistent Action = Less Emotional Explosions

When parents have a plan on how they will respond to different situations they have a refreshing new confidence about even the most annoying or frustrating things their kids do and can respond with their plan of action instead of an explosion of words and emotions. And when kids are fully aware of how parents will respond to their behaviors and actions because it’s been the same every time, the last 10 times, they will be less upset with their consequences and be less reactive when you have to make them accountable for their actions. Instead, they will expect the time out or loss of privilege or whatever it is, and start preparing themselves to be accountable for their behavior instead of throwing that big melt down like your murdering them by suggesting they lose their video games.

So in the end, knowing is only half the battle (thanks GI Joe!), it’s the “doing consistently” that will carve out change in your family and your confidence as a parent. Realizing change needs to happen is the first step. Learning some new perspectives and strategies to help you move in the right direction is the next. Then, consistent action is the marathon that should help you get to where you want to be.

However, not everyone is successful working through these steps alone. Some parents find that this course of action works for most of their children, but there are one or two kids that have parents at the end of their rope, feeling like “nothing works.” In other families, it’s the parents themselves (whether separated or not) that are having trouble working on the “same page,” with each parent using very different parenting styles and finding little common ground. Others can get a bit lost when trying to make the Pillars of Parenting work for them. And still others can’t see where the problem is, they just know that their family could be doing better.

There are many circumstances that bring parents to utilize my parent coaching services, but the goals are always the same - to find new strategies to make parenting easier and less stressful while creating positive change within the home. Please contact me to learn how parent coaching can work for your family and create a more peaceful household. Contact me today about in–person or online coaching services. I look forward to learning more about your challenges and uniquely wonderful family!

Pillars of Parenting: Accountability

So if rules are meant to be broken what do we do when they break?

One of the biggest issues in parenting is keeping your kids accountable to the rules and expectations that you set. Let’s face it. If parenting had an underbelly, it would be discipline. No one likes it. No one waits in anticipation for the opportunity to really “teach them a lesson” when their kids break a rule. But it is an absolute necessity all at the same time. Discipline and keeping your kids accountable is what holds all those rules in place. So, let’s talk about some things that we can understand about this side of parenting to help make it a little easier. Probably still not going to make it your most favorite part of having kids, but at least it can be a subject you feel confident about.

The Latin origin of the word discipline is “to teach.” That being said, I think it’s important to go back to our focus: parenting based on values. To raise our kids by and teach them these values, we set our rules and expectations around them. However, the lesson goes one step further when they are then held accountable to these rules and expectations by way of appropriate consequences that also fit our values. The only way kids will learn that our rules and expectations matter is by being held accountable to them. If there is no accountability then our rules are merely suggestions. As simple as that sounds it is not always simple for parents to figure out their method for holding their kids accountable to their actions. Sometimes we get caught up in our feelings about being too harsh, not wanting our kids to be upset, or we get too rigid and fear every infraction deserves a sky high consequence or our kids are destined for orange jumpsuits. Below are some suggestions to help stay in the zone of fair, reasonable and productive.

  • Do not ignore behaviors that break your family rules. If there is a rule and it gets broken there should always be some type of accountability. It is often recommended to ignore behaviors and they will go away. This does NOT apply when your child is breaking a rule. Ignoring behaviors is something reserved for annoying, obnoxious, or attention seeking gestures - not for actual offenses to rules. If a rule is broken or expectation unmet it at least deserves a conversation. Even a conversation shows your kids that you are paying attention and they will be confronted if they step outside the boundaries. Even further follow-through with well-laid-out consequences would be even better.
  • Accountability is best found by way of natural consequences. The best lessons ever learned are the ones that make sense. When we find consequences that fit the crime it makes way more sense to us and our kids than the regular go-to of getting grounded….AGAIN. So whenever possible try and find a consequence that fits the situation. The best way to think of it is to ask yourself what it would take for your child to right their wrong. So if your kids made a huge mess the natural consequence is that they have to pick it up before they can do anything else. If your teenager comes home after curfew, the natural consequence is having to be home that many minutes earlier the next night. Excessive tardiness or repeatedly ignoring curfew (even after consequences) could then warrant not getting to go out at all for the next few nights.
  • Reasonable and fair. Consequences, after all, should not foster resentment from your children toward you, but instead be a reflection of their own behavior in a fair and reasonable way.  Getting your phone taken away for two weeks because you left a sock on the floor may or may not teach your kids to not leave a sock on the floor. What it will also potentially do is cause resentment and a lack of trust in the system of rules and consequences. This can then spiral into defiance, disrespect and a general lack of cooperation. Keeping things reasonable and fair will help keep emotions to a minimum in the discipline process.
  • Respect and Keeping Your Cool. Most families are going to have values around respect. It is important that when keeping your kids accountable that you are also using methods that are in line with this value. By discussing the accountability your kids need to have for their actions, or when delivering consequences, it is important to do this in a respectful manner. If the issue at hand is something that has you angry and upset it is absolutely fine to take a minute away and chill out before deciding how you want to go forward. If you don’t, then emotions could run high and the situation will quickly escalate. Your kids may not handle their consequences well, so it is even more important that, as the parent, you have kept your wits about you and can keep control of the situation.
  • Everyone should be on the same page. If there is more than one parent in the house it is important to communicate what has occurred and what the expectations are for holding the kids accountable. It’s important that you stay on this same page and neither parent work against, or undermine, the other while carrying out discipline. Kids will find a way to manipulate the situation if they know they have a chance. Be clear in both your words and actions that you are working together.
  • Know the finish line. Consequences without a concrete time line or action to mark the end are really just mind games. I am not a fan of leaving kids on a cliff hanger for when they will be “off the hook.” It tends to leave kids confused and eventually hopeless that they will ever be ungrounded or get their video games back or whatever the case may be. In addition, it also keeps you, as parents, in a state of constant contemplation and with few places to go when your kid breaks another rule - and then another - in the meantime.  So instead of saying “You’re grounded until we can trust you again.” (What does that even mean?!?!) Say, “You are grounded for 1 week,” or “You’re grounded from the car until you pay us back for the damages you caused.”
  • Follow-Through, Wait and Watch. Some kids will do their best to try and make you believe they do not care about their consequences. This is a power move on their part. Bless their little manipulative hearts for trying to win! It is important to remember that kids will try and outsmart you, make you mad, disengage or become incredibly emotional in order to make you forget your agenda in holding them accountable to their mistakes. It is important that you stand your ground, follow-through, wait and watch. When the consequences are complete, it is then that you can decide whether or not it was effective or meaningful. Even if kids are made to do something as a consequence that they don’t mind doing anyway - like volunteering or helping with chores - they still don’t have the freedom of how they are spending their time and energy. Once you name the consequence, it is important that you follow-through completely, regardless of the impression they are giving you of how it is affecting them.


Holding your kids accountable for their actions not only teaches them that their actions matter, and your rules matter, but also that THEY matter. At the end of the day, having parents watching over their decisions and keeping them accountable helps kids feel safe. It’s more than just getting kids to do and act the way you want them to. It creates an environment where they can trust that you are looking out for them (even if they don’t like it or see it that way now). So although discipline and teaching accountability may be the underbelly of parenting no one wants to talk about, it really is one of the main players working to build relationship, trust and respect in your family. 

Pillars of Parenting - Expectations (a.k.a. RULES!)


Once we know our Parenting Mojo (otherwise known as “values”) and what exactly we want to accomplish in parenting our children, we next have to figure out how we will make that happen.  This is where expectations and rules show up in the equation. (I know, I know, every kid’s FAVORITE thing!)

I find that most families, like values, feel that these rules already exist and are utilized in their everyday parenting. However, what I find is that these rules are assumed and not necessarily written down, properly explained or taught to all members of the family. This can leave parents feeling frustrated, kids confused and lots of parenting by way of shooting from the hip. In addition, the rules you may have been operating on may or may not align with the Parenting Mojo you have established for your family. This also can throw things off and may make you feel like you’re spinning your wheels.

When we are lacking in a clear set of rules for the family how do we know when and what we should discipline and what we can ignore or leave alone? We don’t. And your kids won’t really know where the lines of expectations are and what it takes to cross them. When it comes down to it, unless a rule is broken should there be a consequence? Probably not. The rest of the world doesn’t really work this way, so we don’t have to make it more complicated in our families. We don’t get sent to detention or get arrested because people around us didn’t like what we were doing. It’s because we broke a specific rule.

So, first thing’s first, as the parents or guardians (if there are two) and the leaders of the family, sit and discuss whether or not you, in fact, have rules and expectations all your kids know, understand and are in-line with your values. You may be winning already and have this piece knocked out of the park - or you may find, like many of us, that there are a lot of assumptions being made and some things out of alignment.

If you find that you need to do some work in this area, the first thing you want to do is pretty simple. Sit and make a list of rules. (I know, sounds kind of basic, right?) You may choose to have your kids in on the “fun” or you may decide, as parents, you want to have control of this all on your own. I recommend that your kids give some sort of input - either before you make the list or after – then, as The Parent(s), you have the final say.

There are a few things you want to think about in making your rules:

  • Rules must be able to tie back to at least one of your family values. Most of the time there will be more than one value to tie a rule to, but if you can’t tie it back to any value, it may not be a productive rule or it may need to be reworded to stay in alignment with your Parenting Mojo.
  • Make rules simple and clear. For example, “Respect others and their property” could have a lot of line items under this umbrella. It could include not teasing siblings, not taking other people’s things without asking, talking back, or even ignoring people in conversation. As a family you may decide to outline these things or, if you’re like me and like to keep things simple, you can remind the child of this rule when actions happen to break it and move forward from there. The risk to outlining every possible scenario would be your (especially more literal) kids pointing out when their action is not specifically listed in the line items and arguing that they did not break the rule. That may cause some frustration for everyone.
  • Rules must be doable. Feeling like you’ve been set up for failure stinks. For each rule it is important to triple-check that the rule is doable, and manageable in combination with other rules. For example, if you have a rule that all chores must be done before bed and also have a rule that everyone is in bed by a certain time, this could cause a problem in some situations. If you have a teen busy with school, sports, work and hours of homework they may be able to do one or the other (have chores done or get to bed on time) but not both.
  • Rules should apply to all members of the family (mostly). It will be very difficult to enforce rules without resentment if kids feel like they have to follow a rule you, as parents, don’t also respect. I mean, you can try and all, but I’m just giving you fair warning - it may cause more frustration than it’s worth. If you have rules like “respecting yourself and others,” and “everyone is expected to control their temper,” it may be seen as hypocrisy if you lose it on your kids left and right over both small and big things. Your kids may not put as much effort into following this rule as you would like. And you can expect them to point out, when being disciplined for breaking these rules, that “you do it all the time, too!” And that never feels good. This doesn’t necessarily mean consequences look the same if you break the same rule as your kids, but there should be a sincere effort to follow them in the first place.
  • A rule is not a rule until you make it a rule. Ok, so this is in preparation for the next segment on accountability, but we will discuss it here too. You may find that something comes up that you did not expect and it does not exactly fall under your other umbrella rules. Once this happens, it is important to talk about it as a family and decide what kind of rules need to be made for the issue. After and ONLY AFTER the rule is created, and there is a good understanding of the rule, can discipline be effectively accomplished. For instance, as more use of technology happens as kids get older there may be a need to build in some new rules or make some revisions.

Once rules and expectations have been hammered out, they should be written down. There’s something about writing things down that makes them real and makes them happen. It is good practice to write these rules down to add accountability for you and your kids to follow them. In addition, it is important to remember that, although rules are written out, they can change.  We want to have a clear and fairly concrete list of rules, but we also want to be sure this is a living breathing document with flexibility. We want to use this list as a guide and make changes as we need to. As our kids grow and change and have different needs and struggles, we may need to adjust how our rules are written and what is on the list. When they’re teenagers we may not need a rule stating they need to ask before grabbing a snack, but instead something clearer about checking in with the “who, what, where?” of what they are doing.

The most important last step, however, is making sure your kids know and understand the rules. No one likes feeling like they got in trouble for something they didn’t know was wrong or they didn’t know was a rule. Be sure you are clear with your kids regarding your expectations, and why you have those expectations in the first place. Also be clear before going into unique situations about what your expectations will be while there. If your kids are not used to going to a fancy restaurant or a formal dinner party, you may want to lay a few things out before getting there to make sure they realize what is expected of them.

I know sorting through your expectations and actually writing them all out may seem like a big job, but even God himself committed the Ten Commandments to stone!  I’m not asking for any engraving here (or any burning bushes!), just a way to make everyone in your family knowledgeable about the when, how and why they are following or breaking the rules you’ve set out for them – a strategy that will increase the calm in the chaos of family life.

Pillars of Parenting - Values

Parenting with Values

Have you ever stopped in the midst of yet another moment of Parental Outrage over something your kid has done, thinking up disciplinary action with finger still wagging, and wondered 'what am I even doing in the first place?' Have you ever been frustrated with your kids and just gave up trying to change the situation because you couldn’t remember why the fight was worth it? I think a lot of parents find themselves in this place way too many times. They know they “should” discipline their children for actions that are done or not done, but they’ve never taken a moment to verbalize why that discipline is so important. This is where knowing your Parenting Mojo (or Values), and how they are prioritized, is essential to how you parent. It is the definition of your WHY.

The process of sitting down with yourself and your partner or spouse, and really putting some thought into what kind of values you want your family and children to emulate creates the bow you’re shooting your arrows from. It gives direction and a launching pad for all other actions, including how you shape your rules and expectations - as well as your responses when holding your children accountable. A clear idea of Parenting Mojo closes the gaps when trying to explain to children the importance of their actions and puts gas in your tank when you’re running low on the desire to put effort into correcting the behaviors or the mindsets of your kids.

And the craziest part - it’s truly not that hard. When I work with my one-on-one parent coaching clients, I explain the principal of knowing their Parenting Mojo BEFORE we can set family rules and expectations. Once that clicks, they can usually whip up a good list pretty quickly. Most of us are looking to do the same sorts of things in raising kids, right? We want them to be respectful, honest, kind, helpful, and motivated to try hard in the things they do. We want them to be accountable for their actions and not run from their mistakes. We want them to be grateful, polite, and eventually a contributing member of society, correct?  These are the characteristics most parents are looking to build in their children through the process of parenting. But I think, in most cases, parents have never taken the time to put into words what those values actually are. 

The problem is, when you’re not thinking about these values and keeping them front and center (basically, not working from that Parenting Mojo), you begin to feel frustrated and confused about where to put your energy in regards to expectations and disciplining of your children. We start thinking things like, “Oh, well, what’s the big deal? They didn’t pick up their stuff when I asked them to, I’ll just do it for them.” Or the old, “Maybe we’re being too hard on them when they won’t put the toothpaste back after brushing. It’s really not an earth-shattering issue.”

In both of these cases the individual problem isn’t, in fact, a big deal. However, if you look back and remember those values you’re trying to teach - like the importance of following through on expectations, not leaving tasks unfinished or respecting the requests and spaces you share with others - then it is a big deal. Letting those seemingly small things go sends mixed messages about what you really want your kids to believe. They do not have the brain development to differentiate between the big and small things, or to decide when following through on their responsibilities is important, really important or no big deal.

Now on the other side of this, you could get totally fired up when your kids are being too loud and noisy. Or you could get upset when your child is starting to grow some independence and does not agree with you about something. And the kicker here is that, unless you have family values about being quiet or your children always agreeing with you, you may be trying to skin the wrong cat. You may end up putting a great deal of misaligned energy pointed at the wrong target. However, if you’ve asked your kids to quiet down and they’re supposed to be respectful of your requests - or you have a child DISRESPECTFULLY disagreeing with you - then that’s a whole other story.

So there are some clear lines related to knowing the values you want to instill in your family and the daily parenting choices we make. Clarifying that Parenting Mojo helps parents feel like their actions, even when they’re stressful or hard, are still incredibly purposeful and also imparts a sort of magical parental confidence when we could otherwise just feel like the bad guy. This clarity helps keep us out of the rollercoaster of parenting-from-our-emotions and grounds us in knowing we’re accomplishing something bigger. And, finally, it creates the road for your children to become the people you want them to be in the end game. People you like. People you respect. And people who can show the rest of the world what your family is all about.  

Pillars of Parenting - Relationship

What kind of relationship you have with your kids is the cornerstone to your capabilities in parenting and creating the family life you want. It really is the thing that makes all the other things work or don’t work. Think about it - if your kids don’t respect you will they follow your rules? If your kids don’t feel like you’re ever around to spend time with them will they respond appropriately when you try to give consequences or set limits? My guess is no.  

“But I have a great relationship with my kids and they still don’t listen to me!”  Sound familiar? Well it does to me. I hear it all the time. We can totally feel like we are getting along great with our kids... and then be confused by the feeling that they don’t respect us. Or we can feel like they trust us to take care of them, or to look out for their happiness, but also find they don’t listen to or follow our directions. That’s when we have to pick apart the pieces of relationship that matter the most and still remember that the relationship is the FOUNDATION the rest of your parenting practices hinge on.

The most important pieces to building strong relationship with your kids, and a place to parent from, are Respect, Trust, Connection and Communication. Each one of these components weave together to create the foundation of relationship. Each has their own importance and their own pitfalls and all have to be present for there to be a balanced parent/child relationship. Let’s look at each one and what they have to offer.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T….Find out what it means to me!  Ok, sorry, it’s hard to not get carried away by the late, great Aretha Franklin when discussing respect. So, seriously, it seems obvious right? Kids are supposed to respect their parents. Well, here’s the thing - is it just as obvious that we as parents should have respect for our kids as well? Respect is most healthy and strongest when it is mutual. For this reason I believe it is important to have a healthy level of respect for your kids’ needs, wants, feelings, etc. By showing them this type of respect, you’re modeling to them how they should respect you. There is no "one-sidedness" to this equation. It should not be parents fully in-tune to respecting their kids' needs and wants, with kids having no regard for that of their parents. And it shouldn’t be kids blindly respecting their parents simply because they should. Bottom line is that people in any type of relationship will listen and cooperate better with the other person if they feel respected. Just ask Aretha!

Trust is a high stakes subject. It is a piece of relationship that is crucial and may be taken for granted at times. It is a dynamic concept. People may trust each other in one way but not another, which can be complicated. I might trust my best friend to keep my secrets, but not necessarily to perform open heart surgery on me. So when it comes to being trustworthy in the eyes of our kids, they need to believe that you will say what you mean and mean what you say. That you will be there to meet their needs, protect them and keep them safe. And like respect, trust needs to be mutual. Kids need to believe that you trust them as well. This trust you have for your kids can then become a thing of value that your children will protect through making good choices and being honest with you. So at the end of the day, because you trust them, they may just make better choices - like not trying that cigarette in the parking lot after school. (Oh wait, was that an after school special?!?)

Spending time or doing things to connect with your kids shows them you think they are important, that they matter, and are valued. Like being picked first for kickball at recess (a euphoric-type feeling, I'm guessing, since I was never the first-picked! ) kids light up with an internal feeling that they are awesome….because YOU picked THEM.  When we feel appreciated and worth someone’s time and attention we open ourselves up to valuing our relationship with that person and our interest in keeping the relationship positive goes up. This means that our kids will try harder to please us and stay in our good graces when they feel important to us. They will feel important to us if we do the work to connect with them.

Calm and respectful communication is basically the sauce that blends it all together. It is crucial in order for kids to feel respected, and to build trust and connection.  And when those things are in place, and kids feel heard, cooperation and respect for the limits you set improves greatly. When parents can respond - instead of react - to situations and hear their children’s thoughts and feelings with openness and respect, they create a safe place for kids to feel like they can be themselves and are valued for who they are. Honesty is increased as kids are less fearful of telling the truth and relationship deepens through steady streams of communication. Think about how you’ve felt when someone has barked orders or screamed at you. Did you listen or could you only pay attention to how they were talking to you? Or when you’ve had that friend that never listens to you but always expects you to listen to what she thinks and how she feels? At the end of the day is she the person you choose to talk to?

These components, Respect, Trust, Connection and Communication, all fold into each other but also weave into all things we do as parents. Again, trying to manage expectations we have of our children as well as keeping our kids accountable for their actions and teaching them to be the kids we want to raise is all managed much better when there is mutual respect, trust, solid connection and sound communication. It creates value in the relationship that your kids may not be able to explain in words, but can feel. This will also be something they want to protect and reproduce in other relationships they have with friends and significant others as they mature.  So when working on goals in parenting with my clients, this is the first area we work on and the area I would recommend folks to look at when wanting to make improvements in their family functioning. Absolutely everything else you do as a parent will work better if the foundation of relationship is solid.