“Do as I say, not as I do”… and Other Challenges in Consistency

In our last few posts we’ve been talking about tossing out the ideas of “good parents” and “bad parents” and replacing them with some new words — Effective, Consistent, Active, Attentive.

A father, mother, and son are sitting on a couch having a conversation.

It comes from a place of good intention, right? We want our kids to develop healthy eating habits, even if we maybe don’t always have great habits ourselves. Or maybe we are trying to teach our child not to interrupt, but then catch ourselves interrupting them when they talk to us. Ultimately, if we feel the urge to tell our child “Do as I say, not as I do,” it might be a sign that we are struggling to be consistent in our words and actions.

This week, let’s take a closer look at consistent parenting – which the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development defines as when “You follow similar principles or practices in your words and actions.” …Anyone else looking around the room all guilty when they read that definition, or is that just me?

Even if our inconsistencies are unintentional, we can see how our actions speak louder than our words when it comes to our kids. For example, we have been working on teaching our almost three-year-old to speak kindly to others (without the sass). It’s something we offer reminders and redo’s on everyday to practice. The other night at supper my daughter turned to my husband and said, “You are bothering me. Go away.” I went to help her rephrase it to something more like, “Dad, I need some space,” and noticed my husband giving me a look. Then he said, “you know she learned that from you, right?”.


I often playfully tell my husband he is bothering me when he teases me or says something that’s realistic that I don’t want to hear. The fact that I was telling my toddler not to speak to others that way wasn’t getting very far when I was modeling that behavior myself! I had to take the moment to “fess up” that I do say that sometimes, and that it’s not a nice way to talk to Dad. I had to acknowledge to my child (and myself) that maybe I wasn’t being the most consistent in my words and actions on this particular front.

So I’m still working on being consistent in my words and actions across different fronts with my parenting. It is requiring some honesty and humility on my part, but I know consistency also helps me work toward being a more effective parent! It’s alright if we don’t get it perfect every time. We can all work together to strive to be more consistent in our words and actions with our children! Join us at Science of Parenting for the journey!

Come back next time to learn more about being an active parent, regardless of your family situation!

Source: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, https://www.nichd.nih.gov/sites/default/files/publications/pubs/documents/adventures_in_parenting_rev.pdf

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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