The Key to Being a Consistent Parent
Being a parent is hard work; there’s no mistaking that. Life, in general, is chaotic and messy, and the simple fact that we’re human makes us prone to making mistakes. We forget things, get confused, lose track of time, and sometimes we get so tired that we don’t have the energy to handle our child’s challenging behavior. It’s not easy to stay on top of things all the time, let’s face it. So you think, “I’ll let it go, just for today.” it’s easy to veer off course. Parents think giving in to whining, nagging, or temper tantrums will make their lives easier. But in the long run, it just makes life more complicated. It’s a question of paying now or paying later.
Being consistent with your rules, values, limits, and consequences is crucial in establishing a culture of accountability in your home, the structure that upholds you, the parent, as the authority that your child answers to. Conversely, you undermine your authority when you are inconsistent in these areas because the boundaries aren’t clear.
Here’s the good news, you can overcome the obstacles you face. Even if you think you’ve been inconsistent up to this point with your child, it’s never too late to change. Let’s look at why it’s important and how you can start being more consistent right away. You know that what you’re doing isn’t working, but you’re not sure how to make things better. That’s okay; you’re not supposed to know all the answers.
Many parents have a hard time being consistent and struggle because of guilt, self-doubt, or just sheer exhaustion. If what you’re doing isn’t working, try something different. You, as the parent, are the change agent. If you are having trouble being consistent, we are here at Almost Mom to help figure out what is at the root, focus on what you’d like to change, and start working on it. It’s never too late to start, and the rewards for both you and your child are enormous.
What does it mean to be consistent?
To be consistent is to be reliable, dependable, and constant. These words immediately convey comfort, don’t they? Being reliable means you can be trusted. When I think of the people I can trust, the first thought that comes to mind is that I know if they say they will do something, they will do it. I have every confidence in my expectations of them. Being dependable means that you are steady and responsible. Aren’t these the values you would like your children to learn from you? Finally, being constant means being stable, regular, and even in your approach.
Doesn’t this make you feel comfortable and safe? Consistent Parenting is about understanding what we mean and carrying out our intuitive parenting by being reliable, authentic, dependable, and constant. Consistency makes the child’s world predictable and less confusing. It frees their minds of worry about what might happen and teaches them accountability for their actions.
Why is consistency so important for both children and parents?
- Consistency gives a child a sense of security. They learn they can rely on their parents and trust that their needs will be met. This helps in the bonding process.
- Children with consistent parents experience less anxiety.
- Developing a daily routine with regular rising times, bedtimes, after-school schedules, and meal times will cultivate a more peaceful home life.
- Consistency helps a child develop a sense of responsibility because they know what their parents expect from them.
- Children who have consistent rules with predictable consequences are less likely to “push the limits” and constantly test their parents by misbehaving. They learn quickly that “no” means “no.”
- Investing in early inconsistent parenting pays off huge dividends later. There will be considerably fewer temper tantrums, arguing, and bargaining as the children grow.
- Without consistency, children must “guess” daily what actions are appropriate.
- Inconsistent parenting causes confusion, poor self-esteem, and oftentimes very negative values.
- No one can be 100% consistent 100% of the time, but what happens when you’re frequently inconsistent? You’ll find that your child’s behavior will get worse—and you’ll be more tired and worn down as a result.
- Children can and will manipulate parents who are not consistent. If parents are not united, it won’t take long for them to figure out how to get away with anything they want to do. And such behavioral manipulation will likely result in contempt for authority that will create problems for children and parents in the long term.
How can I be a more consistent parent?
- Values: Consider carefully what values are important to you and your family and make your rules accordingly. Setting up too many rules for young children will overwhelm both you and them. Keep it simple “Good Choices” and “Bad Choices.”
- Enforce: Make certain the rules and consequences you set in place are ones you are prepared to enforce. Both parents will not always agree upon every rule and consequence. Talk these issues over privately and strive towards a workable compromise.
- Support: Once you commit to a consistency campaign, solicit backup: Your partner and your child’s teachers, coaches, caregivers, and grandparents can all reinforce your efforts to stop problem behaviors. Ms. Heidi is always here to support and encourage you as the parents anytime day or night. You don’t have to give in to the pressure that your child’s behavior puts on you—and you don’t have to do this alone. Remind yourself not to let your child’s issues become your issues.
- Be Positive: Use positive self-talk “I can do this.” Find one that works for you and use it. Write reminders, put them where you’ll see them during your day. Leaving yourself notes that say, “Don’t argue,” or “Look for cooperation,” or “Don’t give in to whining” may seem simplistic, but it can really help.
- Routines: Particularly when they are young, consistency in daily and weekly routines is an important element of a child’s world. The routine for getting up and going in the morning should be predictable for a child. What happens after school and the order in which it happens (homework, free reading, then play…) will help them keep their world in context. Keeping a regular and consistent routine will be a blessing to them in many ways as they put their life together during their growing up years.
- Take a Break: Allow yourself a short break or time-out when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Give yourself time to come up with a response if your child is in your face begging, arguing, fighting, or complaining. Take some time to calm down and think about what you want to do next.
Here are some ideas that will help you start to improve your consistency as a parent:
- Praise: Remember to be consistent with your praise of positive behaviors. This teaches your child what pleases you and reinforces appropriate behavior. Rewards can help reinforce appropriate behavior. Some parents find that developing reward charts using stickers or stamps helps them to remain on track.
- Temperament: Each child has a unique temperament. Adjust your approach to fit the child. Some children are easily guided, while others may be somewhat stubborn and persistent.
- Expect resistance: Your child will challenge you no matter how consistent you are. Or he may respond well right away, only to fall back into old habits. Don’t despair this kind of periodic testing is normal. Once you accept these temporary regressions, they’ll be less frustrating, allowing you to stay on track. When parents change, kid’s pushback the number one thing you will notice in your child as you start to be more consistent is “pushback.” Pushback is your child’s way of saying, “Wait a minute, I don’t like what’s going on here!” The pushback comes in a lot of different forms. It can appear as arguing, pleading, or negotiating. Some kids will push back by passively resisting you or pretending they didn’t hear you ask them to do something. You might notice that your child appears a bit angrier or more emotional at first, too. This is normal, and this usually temporary escalation in behavior issues can occur when you change your parenting style. We have found that if parents continue to be consistent and walk away when their children are pushing back, things will start to settle down.
- Consistency is important, I agree. But are there times when it is OK not to be consistent? The answer to this question is, of course. But you have to decide in specific cases not to be consistent carefully. It is not OK to be inconsistent just because you are tired or in a bad mood. But certainly, in the case of a parent or child’s illness, the rules might need to be adjusted. In an emergency, you might have to suspend the rules or their application. You and your children should feel liberated by consistent application of family rules, not constrained.
It takes a great deal of patience and determination to parent consistently. However, watching your children develop into secure, responsible, and confident young adults is well worth it!
Consistency tells your child they are important to you.