This is the second week of my Positive Parenting Series, aimed at empowering parents with practical ways in which you can bring peace and balance to your home. Last week we discussed the importance of routine. Have you been able to implement any of these tips? Did they work? If not, why not? I’d love some feedback so please get in touch. Today we are going to discuss another key feature of positive parenting: Consistency.
We’ve all heard parents making threats that they have no intention of keeping. Children are very insightful and can usually tell when an adult is making an idle threat. The consequence of this is that your child may not take you as seriously as you would like them to, and they might quickly learn that they can get away with a fair amount of undesirable behaviour. It is therefore important that if you give your child a consequence for undesirable behaviour (for example, “if you don’t do your homework, you may not watch your favourite TV program tonight”), that you follow through with this. This teaches your child that there are consequences for negative behaviour. Significantly, this will also teach your child that you can be trusted. Whilst it is important to carry through with your threats, it is equally important to respond to inappropriate or undesirable behaviour in a similar way each time. Children become confused if they are allowed to do something one day but not the next. This confusion can even be quite frightening for them, and children who are able to predict their parents’ behaviour feel a lot more secure. By implementing the following strategies, you will create safe and reasonable boundaries for your children:
1. Think before you make a threat. Many threats are made in the heat of the moment and are a lot more drastic than you are actually willing to follow through with. If you make a threat, then it needs to be something that you can implement each time the behaviour occurs, so don’t choose something that is going to be more trouble than it’s worth. For example, shouting at your child that they will not be able to watch TV for a month is probably futile. This is extremely hard to carry through as it will likely become an inconvenience for you and the whole family and will no doubt be discarded after the first day. In this case, a more realistic approach such as “you may not watch TV this evening,” would probably be more effective.
2. Take some time when you are calm and relaxed to think of possible reasonable consequences that you can use for poor behaviour. You know your child well and you are almost certainly aware of the kinds of issues that are likely to lead to conflict. Anticipate in advance how you would prefer to respond to these situations. In this way, you will have some tricks up your sleeve next time you need to discipline your child and will not accidentally blurt out something that you don’t intend on carrying out.
3. Being consistent at home is a lot easier than being consistent when you are in a public setting such as whilst shopping or at a social event. Have a strategy for how you will deal with problems that arise when you are away from home in advance. Knowing how you will deal with a problem ahead of time will empower you and assist you in feeling more in control. You can even communicate this to your child ahead of time so that they know what to expect and can make informed choices regarding their behaviour. Often it is best to have a consequence that can be applied once you do get home (‘when we get home, your tablet/ phone/ will be removed for two hours). It is generally not advisable to shame children in public, especially as they get older so if you need to have a word with them about inappropriate behaviour, move away from others and do so privately.
4. Consistency between parents is also very important. In my practice I often come across parents who each have very different ideas and values when it comes to discipline and parenting. Whilst variety is the spice of life, it can be confusing for children to have different rules for different parents. Parents also run the risk of unwittingly undermining the authority of the other parent and differing opinions on parenting can create marital conflict. If you are struggling to work as a team, consider getting assistance from a professional to help you get on the same page. The benefits for you and your family will be immense.
Good luck in implementing these strategies! Next week we will be discussing the often confusing experience of meeting with resistance – when you are doing everything right but your children’s behaviour is getting worse. Hang in there.