What Does It Mean to Be Consistent as a Parent?
Nearly every parent has experienced their child refusing to take “no” for an answer. Maybe they want a toy from the supermarket, or they’re not quite ready to go to sleep and want to stay up with you for just a little while longer. Whatever the circumstance, starting with “no” and later caving to “yes” is a recipe for a child who will have little respect for the limits you set.
What’s more, a child who has no respect for limits will move through his or her childhood confused about what behavior is and is not acceptable. After all, if sometimes the answer is “yes” and sometimes the answer is “no,” who wouldn’t be confused?
Children Need Consistency to Feel Safe
Children feel safe when they know they can trust their parents or caregivers to be consistent. It can be very confusing for children to not have consistent rules and boundaries. In fact, lack of consistency in parenting can lead to greater emotional instability in children, which can create attachment issues with their caregivers.
For example, imagine that an 8-year-old child, Roy, is scolded one day for watching too much television, but another day he watches all day without a peep from either parent. What message does this send to his young mind? He develops confusion about rules and boundaries, and learns that his parents don’t actually mean what they say.
Later, when he questions his parents’ authority and expresses confusion about why he’s being told to do something that was ok in the past, his parents’ angered reactions teach him that not only can he not trust his parents to be consistent, but he also can’t trust him to not get angry at him for questioning the way the world operates.
Best Practices for Being Consistent with Children
Learning to be consistent with your children can take time, energy, and definitely patience. If you’re used to giving in to your children’s demands, learning to set consistent boundaries may be a tough pill to swallow for both parents and children–at least in the beginning.
But as you continue to maintain the boundaries you establish and remain consistent in them, you’ll likely begin to notice a calmer atmosphere at home and a greater sense of trust between you and your children.
So how can parents practice being consistent with the boundaries they set for their children?
Here are 4 Tips for Setting Boundaries with Your Children:
1. No Means No
If you cave in to your children’s demands and give them a “yes,” they will only push further in the future until they get another “yes” out of you.
2. Don’t Deviate Once a Boundary is Communicated
If you set limits on things like screen time or junk food, make sure your children clearly understand those limits and then don’t deviate from them. This can be tough at first, particularly as your children whine and push for what they want. And… expect that it might be less convenient for you to stand your ground. However, it gets easier over time as eventually, your children realize you mean business.
3. Be the Change You Wish to See
Set a good example for your children by modeling consistency in your own life.
4. Praise the Positive
When your children do something positive, praise their good behavior consistently so they understand and want to repeat the behavior. What you focus on will expand. Focus on the positive!
If you approach boundaries with a calm mind, patience, and dedication to following through, you’ll soon reap the benefits with a calmer household, happier children, and… happier parents too!
Are you struggling to set and maintain boundaries with your child? Do you find yourself caving to your child’s cries to have what they want? You’re not alone! We understand parenting can be difficult. We invite you to complete the brief form below to Request a Free Consultation. A member of our team will reach out to you determine if our practice and which therapist might be equipped to provide parenting coaching so that you can experience a more joy-filled household.
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