Being More Consistent
Consistency is about predictability. For a child, it brings a sense of order, expectation and the need to do the right thing as required by mom and dad. Inconsistent parents may find it hard to cultivate trust, good behavior and compliance from their children. Even though following through with the same rules (consistency) can be difficult, it is entirely possible. Here are five tips to get you started as a consistent parent:
1. Set Things Straight
2. Make Clear Expectations
Sometimes, you do not have to comprehensively consult with your children about house rules, especially those that relate to behavior and routine. Just announce the rules and explain to your children what is expected in terms of rewards and negative consequences (punishment). The key to consistent parenting is having equal rules and expectations for everyone in the family. You cannot say, “Tim, it’s OK for you to go out every Saturday night because you are a 16 year old man”, then say “Stacy (15 years), your cell phone will be confiscated if you go out Saturday night.” It is best to set a rule about going out in the weekend, the limitation and the consequences of sneaking out of the house that apply to both Tim and Stacy.
3. Don’t Let it Slide
Life can get busy and it is easy to let the rules hang lose. Your efforts at consistency just fly out of the window and your children are confused by your behaviour. When you let the rules relax a bit, your child can also start to take advantage of your inconsistency. For example, you have a rule that the older children in your house must do their own laundry. On Saturday morning, you remind 16-year-old Rita to do her laundry but she does not do it. At noon, her laundry is still not done and after pestering and yelling at her to get to it, you finally do the laundry for her because you are afraid she will not have any clean dress to wear to church tomorrow. You have let the rules slide. If this trend goes on, Rita will take advantage of your inconsistency and she will never learn the responsibility of taking care of her own laundry.
4. Be Consistent With The Praise
Consistency is not just about setting the rules and following through. It is also about positive reinforcement so that your child feels more compelled to continue with the good behavior. So be sure to catch your child doing something great and compliment her for the good job. Also be consistent in how you praise all your children; if Max does a great job loading the dishwasher every day and Frank does a great job of organizing their bedroom every day, praise both of them in equal measure. Do not confuse your child with conflicting messages of praise. If Frank makes his bed (as part of the house rituals), one day you cannot say, “Great job, Frank,” and then the next week when he does his bed, say, “This is pathetic Frank! Who makes their bed this way?” Such conflicting messages just create chaos in your child’s mind and he will not have any incentive to comply.
5. Stay Patient
Instilling new patterns of behaviour is not an instant event; it is a process that will take time and you will face resistance, especially from the older children. But this does not give you an excuse to give up and just let chaos rule. Children learn by constant repetition and over time, it will be easy for them to incorporate desired behaviour into their daily routine.