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Kathryn Swegart considers the importance of consistency in disciplining our children.

Several years ago, parents of a large family were asked to speak at a Catholic conference. Organizers of the event asked them to prepare a talk in which they would name their most important rule of parenting. Now that’s a tough question. 

Most parenting experts list seven key factors in raising happy, holy kids. Start with faith and go down the line …unconditional love, honesty, listening ears, consistent discipline, boundaries, and attention. 

Besides a strong Catholic faith, what practice is most important? The couple struggled to nail down an answer. Finally, they came up with their recommendation. Consistent discipline rose to the top. 

Consistent discipline has many sensible qualities. I will touch upon two key elements. 

Follow through on instructions.

If the child is asked to take out the trash, watch to be sure it gets done. Junior should not wander outside and practice wheelies on his bike. Be sure to assign tasks that are age appropriate. Make it easy for the child to complete the chore, then praise him for a job well done. Soon, it will be a habit. 

Make no empty threats.

This is a big one. Children figure out very quickly if parents are serious about consequences. Here is an example of what not to do, based on a real incident that happened many years ago. 




Our family pulled into a packed parking lot and the kids happily jumped out of the van. We were going to a circus! A giant tent transformed a field into a thrilling venue complete with elephants, clowns, trapeze artists, and lion tamers. We took our place in the crowd and headed toward the entrance, following another young family. Here is the dialogue overheard as we neared the tent. 

Mom: “Susie, stop teasing Johnny. I have had enough of your fighting.” 

Susie: “But he started it.” 

Johnny: “I did not. You started it.” 

(more whining) 

Mom: “If you two do not stop fighting, we will not go to the circus. We will turn around and go home.” 

In my opinion that had to be the crown jewel of empty threats. The family was a few steps away from the circus tent. Would Mom follow through on her threat? Would Mom really turn around and march back to the car? Of course not. Mom knew they would go to the circus that day. The kids ignored her threat and continued their mildly annoying behavior. It was a scene probably played out on a regular basis. 

Consistent discipline creates trust between parents and children, modeling the importance of honesty in relationships. Over time, a healthy pattern of parental expectations and responses from children become the norm.  


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Consistent discipline creates trust between parents and children, modeling the importance of honesty in relationships. #CatholicMom


I once asked my husband about his upbringing. Left without a father at an early age, he spent many weekends with his grandparents. 

“How did your grandmother discipline you?”  

Without hesitation, he replied, “Her eyebrows.” 

In other words, the slightest gesture reinforced her expectations. 

Follow this golden rule of parenting. Use consistent discipline in a firm, loving manner. You will help build healthy relationships that last a lifetime. 



Copyright 2023 Kathryn Swegart
Images: Canva