Be Consistent with Your Child
Consistency: When It's a New Skill
For some parents, consistency is hard because they were raised by bossy parents, and they're not going to be so rigid, inflexible, and mean with their own kids. Parents rebelling against bossy upbringings want to please their kids, want their kids to love them, and don't want to come off as tyrants. You can be nice, loving, and consistent at the same time. Consistency doesn't equal rigidity or cruelty. It's a support system.
For parents whose own parents were wimpy, the struggle may be to discover what consistency and firmness really means in day-to-day life. I suggest more disciplinary advance planning. Sit on down, alone or with a partner, and work on your lists. “How do we want to deal with this issue?”
It's a Good Idea!
Being consistent is in your own best interests, too. If they know you can be pushed around, you will be.
Stick to your decisions, stand confident in your responses, and your kids will respect and trust you for your fortitude and your consistency. They are relying on you to be firm—they don't yet know how to be. No matter which direction on the parenting scale you are coming from, remember that children need solid, firm consistency.
Consistency with your children is a form of structure. Your kids are relying on you to provide solidity and structure, to be consistent in an inconsistent world. You're being firm for their sake.
Faulty Consequences and Flexibility
Now that I've begged, pleaded, and lectured about the need for consistency, I've gotta tell you that sometimes you've got to change your mind.
There are those who believe that once you've made a stand and established a rule, limit, or consequence, you've gotta stick to it or you lose all credibility.
On the other hand, Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”
I say that there's a difference between throwing out idle threats and never following through on promises or consequences, and occasionally changing your mind, or realizing you've made a mistake and rectifying it. Sometimes a rule, limit, or consequence isn't right, or simply doesn't work. These are the times to be flexible. Part of being flexible is realizing you've erred and being willing to change. (Sometimes the act of confessing you've made a mistake opens a great dialogue with your child, and accomplishes exactly what the faulty limit or consequence did not!)
Be consistent, but make sure your consistency is not “a foolish consistency.” Keep thinking. Be willing to change when you are wrong.
More on: Values and Responsibilities
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.
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