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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Consistent Schedules For Infants And Toddlers

Infant in bedHave you ever said, “My baby is crabby because we were too busy for nap time”? Or witnessed a hungry toddler throw a temper tantrum in the grocery store? Or have you said “My toddler has requested this book so many times that I can read it in my sleep!”

Infants and toddlers benefit from the nurturing and responsive relationships which they experience through consistent daily routines and repetition. Morning routines, transitions before and after child care, meal and snack times, chore time, indoor and outdoor play, and consistency at bedtime create environments for healthy growth and development. Meal time and bed time are two ways to add consistency to your child’s day:

Meal Time

Strive to eat together in your home as a family at least one meal a day. Children who eat meals at home eat healthier and more economically and experience positive conversation. Family meals foster physical, cognitive, emotional and social well-being for your infant and toddler and benefit your entire family.

Bed Time

Infants and toddlers feel more comfortable at bedtime when they experience routines in the same order and at the same time each night. This may include a warm bath, brushing teeth, changing into pajamas, cuddling with a special toy during story time or singing a special lullaby together. Quiet music and conversation may also be soothing. Limiting sugar, caffeine and television also creates a calmer bedtime.

Children thrive best when they are able to count on loving parents and caregivers to provide positive consistent schedules and routines. Consistency also minimizes power struggles between parents and children.

Is it realistic to have a consistent routine 100% of the time? Absolutely not. The unexpected happens and daily schedules get turned upside down. Major life changes such as military deployments, family illness, and custody issues also interfere with routines.

Try your best to prepare your child for school success by planning a consistent routine based on their individual needs.

Nancy Frecks, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

This article was originally published by Frecks as a PDF for Nebraska Extension. We have republished it here with her permission.

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

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