Parenting with consistency is an important key to effective parenting. There are no shortages of reminders, as we go out and about, that many people either don’t know or don’t understand how important consistency is in teaching children to obey and behave.
The Very Loud Family
Just the other night we went out to eat and a little boy came in with his family. He was crying, whining and sometimes yelling. At first, it was somewhat understandable. This little guy was hungry and obviously was dealing with big emotions, the only way he knew how. However, after a while, one had to wonder where the parents were and why they allowed him to continue to disrupt everyone in the restaurant, for so long.
Then, we heard the father. The child had begun to wander and occasionally have outbursts, between his parents who were ordering and a play area. The father yelled across the establishment to his son in order to get his drink order. The father gave his son 2 choices and the son kept yelling he wanted Dr. Pepper (not one of the choices given). I don’t know what the father ordered for him, but I really hope it wasn’t the Dr. Pepper. (Dad was giving two choices. I hope he only gave him one of those.)
The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree
No wonder the child yelled throughout the restaurant, his father spoke very loudly! Not just getting the order, but all the way to their table (unfortunately right next to us.). Later, the dad went to get something else and ran into someone he knew. He was so loud that everyone kept turning their heads to see what was going on. At first, I thought he was complaining to the manager about something, but he was just a very loud talker who has never learned volume control!
While this family waited for their food. It was chaotic. They had other children and they were all struggling. The father did lower his voice volume once he was at the table, but they were close enough for us to hear the threats. “If you scream again, we will go outside”. Son screams again, but they remain where they are. There were various other threats and nothing was ever followed through.
The kids had learned well. Dad and mom may bluster and threaten, but they don’t do what they say. Therefore, there are few consequences and the kids can do what they want and push the parents around, because they know mom and dad won’t follow through.
Consequences of Inconsistency
- Children misbehave
- Children fight
- Children push and push for what they want- they have learned this is acceptable. No, doesn’t necessarily mean no and if you keep pushing it might turn into a yes.
- Lack of respect for you and all adults they encounter;if they don’t have to respect or listen to their parents, why would they listen or respect any adult?!
- Learn to mistrust and don’t believe what you say
- They think it is acceptable to make threats and promises and not follow through.
- Don’t understand what it means to keep their word
For 18 years my father-in-law was married to a woman who loved to make promises. She disappointed my children numerous times! Everything from promising to come by and see the kids to what she was going to buy them.
My children would wait all day for her and grandpa to come by. (I don’t know if he knew what she had promised.) My kids would be more and more disappointed as the day went on and no grandma and grandpa to be seen. Eventually, a phone call would come and she would tell us they ran out of time and weren’t going to make it. I was then left to console my very hurt and disappointed children.
I had to tell my mother-in-law that she was not to make promises to my children and that I would not make excuses for her. We ran interference as much as we could and didn’t tell the kids they had mentioned coming by.
My kids knew at a very young age that grandma did NOT keep her promises. She may say some nice and exciting things that you want to believe but she doesn’t follow through.
We were able to use her example as a teaching tool in what not to do.
We talked to our kids about how they feel when someone says they are going to do something and then doesn’t follow through. Then, we talk about better ways of handling situations. How important it is to be true to what you say. Whether or not you trust the person who flakes on you. We talk about what they should do in their lives and how important it is for them to learn from this experience and not do what has been done to them.
Consistency through promises and being true to what you say
If you promise something, do it! Now to a kid a promise isn’t necessarily saying the words “I promise”. They feel like, if you say you will do something, you are going to do it and that is as good as a “promise”.
For an adult to say, “but I didn’t promise”, only builds mistrust. They believed you and you let them down. That is what they will remember.
The world is often cold and harsh, don’t be the one to teach them that! There are plenty of people in this world who will let them down and soon enough they will learn the harshness of life. A parents responsibility is to teach them how it should be, teach them to be good people and who they can trust and rely on.
- Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
- Don’t make promises that you aren’t sure you can keep. This can be just as bad as making promises you can’t keep. It doesn’t matter that you would really like to do xy or z, the fact still remains that you didn’t follow through.
- Mistrust is built if you don’t follow through
- Builds trust when you follow through
- They learn they can count on you
- Your words mean something – they aren’t empty
Consistency through Punishments
Be careful with threats! You should never threaten to do something that you either can’t or aren’t willing to carry out. Otherwise, you are just a storm without any power. They quickly learn that there are no consequences for actions and they can continue doing what they want until you really lose your temper.
My husband and I made some punishment rules, for us, as parents to follow:
- It is appropriate to take a time out and discuss with one another what the punishment should be.
- Don’t always hand out the punishment in the heat of the moment.
- Ask the child if they understand what they did wrong or if they know why you are upset. If they don’t know, calmly explain it to them. If they are able to verbalize what they should do instead, next time or in the future it will stick more than you just telling them and lecturing. It can also help to ask them how they think someone else involved in whatever happened (for example if they hit another child) feels. This can be a teaching moment for empathy. Another good question would be to ask them how they would feel if someone did xyz to them.
- Don’t inflict a punishment on your child that your spouse or someone else has to carry out! It isn’t fair to your spouse to ground your kid from media for the entire day, when they aren’t around to enforce it. (Unless of course, you both agree that this is an acceptable punishment that both of you are willing to follow through with.)
- Often, it takes 2 to tango. The one getting in trouble often has a reason for doing what they did, but went about it wrong. So, if your kid hit because the other one hit first or was antagonizing the other, address both kids. Neither one was behaving appropriately!
- Don’t inflict punishments on the whole family because of one kid. If you do it builds sibling rivalry and pits them against one another. For example, if you keep it up I am going to turn the car around! #1 don’t make this threat if you aren’t willing to do it. #2 Are you willing to punish everyone for one or two people misbehaving?
- Punishments should help to change the behavior. Hitting because your child hit isn’t going to help them to not hit.
- As my kids got older, I had a poopy attitude rule. A poopy attitude can be kids not getting along, not helping when asked, and just being difficult. Poopy attitudes get poopy jobs and I can find poopy jobs until attitudes change. It doesn’t take long for attitudes to change and they know I am serious. (clean up the dog pooh, clean the bathrooms, clean the oven, clean the garage, etc. any job that is undesirable or messy.)
- If a punishment is delt out rashly and not handled right, a parent can apologize for their over-reaction and change the punishment. This shows that parents make mistakes and can be fair. There is justice and parents model apologizing. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t a punishment (though under the right circumstances that might happen), usually it is an adjustment in severity.
Children learn to obey through consistency. They know what to expect and what is expected of them.
If you haven’t been consistent, there is no time like the present. Be prepared for a battle, at first! They will push the boundaries and they will try to get you to cave, but don’t do it! Stand strong on what you say and it will pay off in a short time. In the long run you will be so happy that you took the stand to become consistent!