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PARENTAL FLIP-FLOPPING

We sure hear a lot about political flip-flopping these days, don’t we? In the political arena the term is used to describe a candidate who says one thing and later says something completely different. It is used in a derogatory sense by the political opposition and the pundits playing Gotcha! implying the candidate is wavering which is equated with weakness. Personally I think it’s a sign of political maturity when a leader is able to change his or her mind as conditions change but I’m into parenting education not politics.

Parents flip-flop too. Changing the rules can be an appropriate reflection of the child’s development. Yesterday you could not cross the street by yourself but today you are big enough to do it while Mommy watches you.

But inconsistent rules or capricious ones are not a good idea. If Mommy says one thing and Daddy says another rule-confusion results. Plus your kids will quickly learn to play one parent against the other, always politicking for the more lenient parent’s rule. Kids are not stupid.

If you habitually change rules according to your mood or you really don’t have any rules at your house, you need some remedial parenting. Children need rules as well as predictability in their lives. (Browse through the sections on Discipline and Parenting Skills on this website for more information on parenting skills and rule.)

I won’t deny that perfect consistency is an unattainable goal and some inconsistency creeps into every household. Actually once in awhile is OK. For example, when you have a headache you don’t want noise levels you tolerate when you are well. Tell the kids why you are acting differently today. It shows the kids that their parents are human.

I see a lot of parental flip-flopping with preteens and teens. These children have learned to argue and may be very good at it. They can sometimes wear you down and get you to change your mind. I have a better way. With rare exceptions, always tell your teen, “I will have to think about it.” And you SHOULD think about it rather than make a snap decision you will regret later. Snap decisions a parent regrets can be either too lenient or too strict but either way they are hard to get out of it. If you change your mind you lose credibility and open yourself to still more arguments.

Another strategy is to do what our Founding Fathers did when they were creating the United States. They convened a Constitutional Convention to write the rules. You can convene a family meeting to make new rules when things change like the oldest getting his driver’s license.(No driving at night, for example, for 6 months.)

Finally if you goof or flip-flop, state your final dsecision firmly and APOLOGIZE for the confusion. “Mom wasn’t thinking yesterday but I am clear now: No boy-girl sleepovers!”

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