Consistency is the magic word, the mantra of Behavioral Modification psychology. Behavior modification focuses on behavior, but from a Biblical point of view, behavior is less important than the heart from which our behavior flows. Consistency has its place in the work of parenting, but parents sometimes overvalue consistency and undervalue the creativity that keeps things fresh. Here are 10 reasons parents overvalue consistency:
1. Consistency seems fair. If we have more than one child, we want to be fair to each. But unless you have twins, your kids are at different points in their development, so what is fair may depend at least on their current ability to handle the privileges you provide them. What is fair may not be the best tactic for a particular child.
2. It follows the current science (philosophy) of behavior modification. Behavior modification psychology began with studies of how to train animals, and then migrated to all kinds of training regimens like breaking addictions and weight loss for humans. It sounds very scientific and has become the primary psychological basis of education and parenting.
3. Consistency works with animals, and to some extent with people.
4. We have had so much change thrust on us through technology, moral shifts (divorce, casual sex, mobile society), the need for consistency in kids' lives has become extreme.
5. Consistency tends to work for a while. But kids are smart, and soon will resist anything they perceive to be manipulating them.
6. Young children do need consistency to learn new patterns, but parents continue this tactic even when their kids get older and can tolerate change better.
7. It allows parents to be lazy – One size fits all parenting is easier than customizing.
8. If parents find something that works, they don't have to change or adapt. For example, let's say you learn about a new chart system that will help your child do his chores. After a while, the rewards of stars on a chart lose their appeal. Now you have to find a new tool, and this takes effort.
9. It allows parents to rely on what they know and keeps them from going to the Holy Spirit for wisdom. Parents start to rely on the systems they create, like the chart system in the previous example. Going to God in prayer, then listening to Him or talking to the child to understand what's going on—these take time and humility as we admit we don't know what to do next.
10. Parents feel guilty when they are not consistent. (when they treat one child differently from another.) The truth is, each child is unique and is created by God to respond differently, especially as they get older and their personalities emerge.
If not consistency, then what? – God Inspired Creativity! Several times in Scripture, the Bible tells the nation of Israel to create something that will be a teaching tool for later generations. The ark of the covenant was a teaching tool. The two stone tablets were a teaching tool that they were told to keep in the ark of the covenant to remind them of God's laws. They were told to create traditions that would help them remember, like the Passover meal and the Lord's supper.
God rarely used the same method twice in Scripture. He was creative in His dealings with us. While He was consistent in His love and mercy for us, His creativity reflects His own nature, and encourages to follow suit.