We’ve all been told, “Children need consistency!” But what does that mean?
Parenting is exhausting and frustrating and let’s face it, we are just trying to survive to the end of the day. If you are a parent, you know that it’s not easy to be consistent. Some days we are more on top of our game than others. We can either be ready to be the best parent we can be, and other days, we are just tired, and our patience is limited. For most of us, our level of consistency is based on this. However, this is exactly what makes it difficult for our children. We expect them to be able to calculate our moods, when determining whether to obey? It’s very simple: Inconsistency confuses our children.
Children will push every limit to see how far they can get. They know that different parents, grandparents and other caregivers set different limits. They are not silly and are very quick to figure it all out. They are also very quick to recognize when we’re being inconsistent. But being consistent is time-consuming and requires thought and patience, but it is an investment that will make your relationship stronger as your child gets older.
From an early age your child will be able to guess how you will react in specific situations, such as when they throw food on the floor or hit their brother or sister and, after time, your child will come to feel safe within the consistency of your responses because if children know the consequences of a behaviour, and there’s no area of doubt from you as the parent, then they are probably more likely to change their behaviour.
Consistency puts action behind your words; it shows your children that you do mean what you say. Given that consistency is so important, yet so difficult for parents, what can we do to make it easier? Let’s discuss some ideas.
Make the Rules
- Start by sitting down with the adults which you want to help you carry out this approach and create a list of house rules. The list doesn’t have to be long, it may only be three things but it means that you all know what they are. Decide the non-negotiables. The rules in our house are;
- You must attempt to eat at least some of your dinner and if there is any silliness, time out is given.
- Their special teddy bears can come into the car but do not leave the car (I am too worried about losing them!)
- Dummies stay upstairs.
- If we are in a car park or walking down the road, then we have to hold hands.
- No hitting, pinching, biting etc
Write them down and post them in a prominent place in your home. Evaluate your rules regularly as your child ages and shows more responsibility.
Involve the Children
- As soon as they are old enough to really understand, after your initial ‘adult’ discussion, allow the children to think that they are a part of the decision making when it comes to setting the rules.
- Let them have a voice in the consequences, and make sure they understand the expectations. It’s not really fair to spring something new on them and it makes more sense for children to follow rules if they know what the rules are.
- It is so important for parents to be on the same page regarding discipline and expectations. If one of you starts to give in to your set rules, behaviour will lapse.
Pick your Battles
- Your child should know that there are certain rules that aren’t breakable — such as not hitting their brother or sister, but it’s your call which issues are worth fighting for. I think that sometimes the consistency our children need lies in our ability to think about each situation flexibly. For instance, take bedtime. A parent can hold to a consistent bedtime on school nights, but loosen that policy for a child’s birthday or like being allowed to have chocolate at Grandma’s.
- That’s thinking. That’s setting limits well, and making exceptions well. Both the limits and the exceptions reassure a child that they are well loved, and that as parents, you have their best interests in mind.
What are your thoughts about being consistent? Do you find it difficult to be consistent or do you have a fairly structured routine with clear boundaries?
If you have found this article useful, you might also like to read another on ‘Toddler Tantrums‘. This one has a few useful tips on how to deal with them! And if you want to follow some of the day to day battles we face with the Popitha Twins, come and join us on Facebook!