Being Consistent

family-473996_1280Have you ever told your child that bedtime is at 9 p.m., then the next night let them stay up until 10 p.m. and the next week you expect them in bed at 8:30? Or what happens when you tell your child to get their homework done right after school and your spouse tells them they don’t have to do it until after supper? If these situations sound familiar, it might be time to look at the importance of consistency in your home.

It’s easier for children to learn appropriate behavior when their environment remains constant. No parent will be perfectly consistent, but some level of consistency is needed for a child to learn the lessons of social life and feel secure while doing so.

Take A Look At These Situations:

A child is disciplined for throwing a football in the living room on Monday evening, but is not disciplined for the same action on Wednesday. Your teenager came home late after the basketball game. You had agreed that he/she should be home by 11:30 p.m. This is the third time he/she has come home late in the last two weeks. Your spouse says “Oh, don’t worry about, it wasn’t too late. Don’t get too shook up about it”. What has your son or daughter learned in these situations? Do they think you don’t care? Do they think they can get away with anything? In both situations, your child will feel confused. Why? Because consistency was not implemented. They do not know what to expect.

What does consistent discipline look like?

  • Results are predictable. As parents your predictable and consistent behavior from situation to situation gives children a sense of security. The importance of a rule is learned when it is enforced consistently.
  • Be consistent between parents in dealing with similar situations. Don’t play one parent against the other one.
  • Practice what you preach. Children learn values and beliefs more by examples parents set than by verbal instructions.
  • The message a parent sends has to be consistent with what the child receives. The child who said to his mother, “Your mouth says you love me, but your eyes say you don’t,” received a mixed message.

Being consistent doesn’t mean there is never room for change. There are times when curfew rules needs to be changed or table manners relaxed. As children grow, rules need to be adapted to children’s ages and level of responsibility. Talk to your children so they understand why changes are made, and then be consistent in how the changes are carried out.

Jeanette Friesen, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

Previously published in a PDF for Nebraska Extension. Used with permission from the author.

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