Home > Kids > Behavior and Discipline > Discipline Strategies > Be Consistent with Your Child
|

Be Consistent with Your Child

Consequences must be consistent. You're aiming for consequences that feel as natural and strong as physical laws, right? Gravity and inertia are nothing if not consistent—that's why they're laws of nature.

Consequences should be applied not based on your moods, biorhythms, or whether the Sox won the game. Time is consistent—if sometimes a minute lasted a minute, sometimes 30 seconds, and sometimes a random hour, it would make it hard to schedule anything. Clock companies would go out of business. People would wait in endless lines. Frustrations would mount, empires fall. I exaggerate, but the point is this: Calendars are reliable because we can consistently count on a minute lasting a minute. Consequences and discipline work best when they are consistent.

Words to Parent By

Consistency means sameness—the same rules and consequences over time.

But consistency is more than consequences, and it's larger than limits and rules. Consistency is a general parenting technique, and one of the main definitions of discipline. (Think about the religious disciplines—a big part of all of them is doing the same practices over time, consistently.) It's not just for misbehavior. Consistency is part of the structure of your child's life. It's the reliability of a weekly schedule, a set bedtime, a ritual birthday breakfast, and traditional holidays. It almost doesn't matter what the routine is—consistency gives your entire family something to rely on and lean against. If you promise a special treat, a consequence, a vacation, or special time together, then do it. Don't promise it unless you're going to deliver. Maintain that trust.

It's a Good Idea!

Consistency applies to more than consequences. All of discipline must be consistent. Consistency is part of the structure of your family—your values, your rules, your limits, your consequences, your unconditional love.

Inevitability, Not Severity

In some families, the most severe consequence ever handed down is, “That's it, I'm not telling you a story before bed tonight.” That's fine—it's not the severity of the consequence that matters, it's the fact that certain kinds of behavior are not acceptable, and if that behavior happens, that consequence will occur. Kids get the message, and learn from it, when consequences are inevitable for certain behaviors.

No Waffles at This Breakfast Table

Don't set a rule, limit, or consequence unless you're going to be consistent in enforcing it. Easier said than done, especially if:

  • Your kids are as cute and manipulative as mine.
  • Your own upbringing was either inconsistent or overly structured.

Kids Make Your Wees Go Kneak

Kids are physically designed to be cute so that we respond to them. The big heads and eyes of babies affect all human beings with the desire to care for them. (It's the big head/eye thing that makes us love puppies, bunnies, and little lambs, too. We can't help it!) Babies need adults to do things for them—they can't walk, feed themselves, or pull down a living salary. Babies grow into kids, but it takes most kids a long time to grow out of their ability to charm. (Some people never do, and I'm sure you know one or two adults who bat big eyes, or give you that puppy dog stare and make you melt into submission.)

Because of the powers of children to make you get weak in the knees and grin uncontrollably, you have to be on your guard to maintain your consistency. Ignore the wheedling, the dewy sobs, the look like, “You're killing me, Ma” when all you're doing is enforcing a very sensible, explicit limit or consequence. Choose your position, and stick to it. Whining should make you firmer than ever.



Next: Consistency >>
|

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to a Well-Behaved Child © 1999 by Ericka Lutz. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Twitter icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks

happy holidays

‘Tis the season
for festive crafts,
recipes, & family
activities!

GO

highlights

Pin the Star on the Christmas Tree Game
Looking for a great Christmas game to play with your kids? Print our free Pin the Star on the Christmas Tree game for loads of family fun!

Kindergarten Readiness App Wins Gold
Our Kindergarten Readiness app won the Gold Award of Excellence in the educational category at the 2014 Communicator Awards. This valuable checklist comes with games and activities to help your child practice the essential skills she needs for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

Top Family Movies in Theaters for the Holidays
Taking the kids to the movies is a special family treat for the holidays! Don't miss 2014's best family films in theaters from Thanksgiving through Christmas.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!