Raising children is not an easy job. You have to have patience, perseverance, patience, internal strength of will, the ability to control your emotions, and patience. Did I mention you must have patience? Because that’s probably the most important quality to have: Patience. There are so many different ways to parent children too. But no matter what you choose, patience in consistency is the first key to parenting.
What does it mean to have consistency in parenting?
Consistency means that no matter what situation you’re in, the rules remain the same. Your expectations don’t fluctuate based on mood, whims, or outside stimulation. At the park, at the store, at home — you have the same standards for your children.
Practically speaking, this means that you aren’t going to yell at your kids for dropping candy wrappers at the park, but ignore and pick up after them at home. Instead, you’ll remind them both at home and at the park, that wrappers belong in trash cans.
Consistency also means you respond the same way to all your children, in most circumstances. Yes we parents are only human, but if you can control yourself and respond to your kids consistently, it will drastically change your relationship with them.
What does that look like? It means that you don’t overreact sometimes (because you’re tired, frustrated, stressed, or whatever), and you don’t under-react at other times. If your son throws his toys at you, you aren’t going to scream at him one time, and toss them back, playing a game, another time. At least, you shouldn’t, if you want your rule of “no throwing toys” to be obeyed all the time. (**By all means, play games with your kids. Just do it in such a way that you don’t sabotage yourself and your parenting! In this example, if you want to play catch, grab the toy, put it down, get up and take your son outside to play catch with a ball.**)
Consistency Creates Clarity
When you as the parent are consistent in how you relate to your children, they know what to expect. There’s no confusion for your children. And that means less frustration for you.
Ever feel like you could put yourself on repeat? That’s a mark of a good parent. When you repeat yourself ad nauseum, you’re being consistent. When your kids can say it along with you, you should take that as a mark of success. What you say over and over again becomes their inner voice as they grow. Yes, children need constant reminding. It’s part of their development. But when you stay consistent, even repetitive, they will learn faster and better.
Consistent rules are clear rules. When you have the same expectations of your children no matter what the circumstances, your standards are clear. For example, if you have a rule of no cookies before dinner at home, and you enforce that rule at your friends’ house, even if they offer, your children will know clearly what your guidelines are.
Consistency Develops Discipline
Being consistent with your parenting helps your children learn to control themselves. Consistency requires you as the parent to model self-control and self-discipline. To consistently respond to your children, you will have to control your temper. You will also have to summon the energy to deal with issues when they come up, even if you are exhausted.
Children learn by seeing and by doing. Consistency in what they see and what they do helps them learn good habits. No one is born disciplined. It has to be externally taught first, before it can be developed internally. You help your children learn self-discipline, through consistent modeling, teaching, and correcting.
One of my principles that I really want my children to learn is respect. I want them to have respect for their things and for other people’s things. They need to have respect for other people. And most importantly, they need to respect themselves.
It’s my consistent reminding and correcting that helps instill the value of respect in my children. I start in toddler-hood, as soon as they are able to start making choices. It’s as simple as getting them to repeat “please” and “thank you” when asking for and receiving a snack. By the time we get to early childhood, my children are almost automatic with their manners. But anytime I become inconsistent with my use of “please” and “thank you”, my kids are quick to forget, and even become demanding and rude.
I teach them respect by first insisting they respect their own things. If they can’t treat their toys and books with respect, they don’t get to keep them. Then I expect they will respect their siblings and their siblings’ things. My consistent boundary here is that if they can’t respect the person or their things, they must stay away until they can. The relationship is broken without respect. Finally, we extend the respect to strangers, treating them with politeness and kindness.
Consistency Brings Boundaries
In order to be consistent in your parenting, you have to master the word “no”. It can be hard to say no to your children. They are adorable, and sometimes resisting those pleading eyes and cute pouts is nearly impossible. But if your goal is children that are polite, respectful, self-controlled and responsible, then you need to be consistent with boundaries.
Children only start to connect what they do with the result around age 9 months, but do not have the capacity to reason, to fully understand cause and effect, until around age 4. And it becomes more fully developed around age 7. So trying to explain to a 2 year old why she shouldn’t scream for a treat is an exercise in futility. She will NOT understand.
Instead, simply state no, and then help her control her own emotions. You can help with her emotions by naming them, and showing her appropriate ways to express herself, or giving her outlets. Instead of screaming, ask her to breathe with you, like blowing thru a straw. Or allow her to have some quiet time to herself (what some call a “time-out”).
When children are out of control emotionally, they need you to be their calm place, not join them in their chaos. Setting appropriate, consistent boundaries will help your children feel more in control.
Consistency Breeds Security
All the childhood development experts agree that one of the best things for children is a sense of security. When children feel secure, they are better able to learn, explore, grow and bond with others. Their future is brighter.
We create that security as parents with consistency. Predictable routines, consistent responses and discipline, clear boundaries and expectations all help create the security children crave. It’s all about your child knowing what to expect, and what they can count on.
When you are consistent as a parent, your children have nothing to fear. They know that if they make a mistake, their parents may be upset, but the child will not be left to wonder if they will be screamed at or ignored. Consistency in consequences helps prevent bigger issues, such as lying, hiding the evidence of misbehaviour, or taking bigger risks.
Help your child feel secure by being consistent. Parents that are consistent show their children that they care about the child. Consistency shows that parents can be relied on, and when a child knows that someone is dependable, they trust more. And that gives you more opportunity to teach and guide.
Want kids that like you? Be consistent.
Sometimes we parents just want our kids to like us. So we do things to try to get them to like us more. We give in more, saying yes to screen time or buying things at the store, even when we know it isn’t good for them (or our wallets!). We bribe our children into not embarrassing us in public, rather than do the work of setting boundaries. Sometimes, you just can’t stand it when your child cries!
None of that will actually get your kids to like you more. What fosters that relationship with your children? Consistency. Kids trust people that mean what they say, and say what they mean. No one likes someone who constantly changes their mind. But we love being around people we can count on. They make us feel special. Your kids will feel special when they know they can count on you.