You find yourself exhausted and instead of going to battle with your 6 year old about not running around the house jumping up and down on the furniture, you just decide to let it go. Yesterday your toddler had to finish eating their lunch before having any afternoon snacks, but today – even though you said it, you don’t feel like following through.
As we venture into the Back to School season, I thought it would be the perfect time to re-focus on one of the most important strategies a parent can use in their home. Consistency.
Consistency: conformity with previous attitudes, behaviour, practice, etc (source)
Consistency is key to successfully teaching your child right from wrong when disciplining them as well as creating a trusting relationship between the two of you. If you say one thing one day and the complete opposite the next, it is hard to create a set of concrete expectations. Your child is not sure when you really mean what you are saying or if they can get you to change your mind.
Being consistent keeps small misdeeds and bad behaviors from later becoming bigger issues and escalating into worse behavior. Your child understands what has happened in the past when they’ve made a certain choice when you are consistent and issue the same answer or consequence again.
You have to stand firm and mean it when you say, “Turn off the television,”or “no dessert after dinner because you didn’t eat your dinner.”
“It comes down to integrity – meaning what you say, saying what you mean, and following through with what you promise.” Hal Runkel, author – ScreamFree Parenting
Consistency teaches your child there are defined consequences for their choices and inappropriate or unacceptable actions or behaviors. Inconsistency when disciplining makes you directly responsible for your children’s misbehavior and doesn’t teach them how to be responsible for their actions.
Can you look back and see when this has happened in your own parenting? I know I can. When I fail to step up to the plate and be consistent, things quickly fall apart. My child learns a new way of manipulating me, which doesn’t do anyone any good.
Consistency is one prime principle covered in the Becoming a Calm, Cool and Confident Mom Online Course. Often times I try to make my parenting journey more difficult, trying to find quick and easy solutions to the behaviors that frustrate me, but I lose the basics. Making sure I am consistent is one area I need to constantly keep focused on.
Consistency is about being strong and standing firm, even when doing so is extremely difficult or exhausting. Yep, we moms know – those long days and endless battles can completely take us down. It is easier to just ignore behavior or allow the “easy” solution, even though it goes against what you truly want to build in your child.
How do you re-focus on your ideal to be consistent?
What areas are you battling and struggling with right now with your child? We cannot change our kids or make them do anything, but you can change how you act, respond and effectively parent. What can you do differently to not feed into the defeating pattern that is going on? I know for me and my youngest, I have to re-evaluate my ability to slow things down for him when he begins to become very emotional. He has trouble regulating his emotions and I can feed into this inability with my reactions.
Yet, if I am the one acting like a grown-up and able to slow his motor down and keep things from escalating, we have a much better outcome. I have to honestly look at what my part is in the behavior pattern and how I can best help him learn techniques to manage his emotions.
When you are practicing consistency it is imperative that you remain calm in your approach. If you raise your voice and go off the deep end, you lose all credibility with your child and the situation will often go downhill much faster. When you are able to display a calm demeanor when dealing with your child, your words will go ten times farther. Do you find when you whisper that your kids are more receptive? If you have not tried this approach, do so today. If I see a situation cumulating into a bigger mess, I will lower my voice and kneel down close to my child and it breaks that escalation.
Think of certain patterns that happen in your home and come up with set phrases that you can draw from. Instead of getting caught up in the battle, you will have a set phrase tucked right in your tool belt. In our home right now, one of our phrases is, “Worry about yourself.” I cannot tell you how many frustrating situations have been avoided because I grab that phrase and kindly dish it out. We also use the word, “Maybe” quite a bit in our home, this keeps me from committing to something that I may not be able to follow through on. When you say yes to something and then are unable to follow through, it sends a clear message that your child cannot trust what you say. No one wants to set that kind of tone.
Don’t let your anxiety drive your word choices. In the midst of a situation, it is okay to think about what you want to say and what kind of consequence is realistic. I know, in my early years of parenting, I would often go off the deep end and make ridiculous statements about my kids, “having no TV for a week,” or something just as ludicrous because I was trying to get the shock factor in my favor – it never worked and honestly, made me look really ineffective as a parent.
Your child will consistently test the boundaries and ‘push the envelope’ with you to see if there’s any play in those consequences. By standing firm you are showing there is not and that you expect them to do nothing less than take responsibility for their actions.
There are no shortcuts to consistency. Providing consistent discipline is exhausting, frustrating and certainly not the easiest way to do things. It is difficult.
How might your increased consistency improve your relationship with your child?