By Deborah Godfrey
The experts have told us that consistency is one key to effective parenting. We all know this in theory; however in practice we often fall short. What does consistency mean? The dictionary defines consistent as “constant in adhering to principals.” Therefore, to become consistent in parenting means that we address situations based on our family principals. So, how can we apply this idea in our homes?
The outward result that tells us that we are being consistent is that our children learn that we mean what we say. They do not try to change our minds or manipulate us on every issue. This is the END RESULT of being consistent. Often we attempt to force this result on our children without teaching them any basis from which to believe that we mean what we say! Saying you “mean it” does not count, it is your actions that matter.
The crucial idea for teaching our children we mean what we say is that we think about the answer before we give it. We have at least a hundred opportunities every day to practice. Children make requests all day long and generally we are in the habit of saying “no” immediately. Then, as the child persists, we think about it, and eventually give in. For example, a child asks to take the dog for a walk, we say “no” because we are too busy to think about it. Then our child whines, “But, WHY? Why can’t I take the dog for a walk? I’ll just go around the block and I’ll be really careful and I won’t bug you anymore!” THEN, we realize that this is, in fact, a good idea and we say, “Sure, go ahead.”
What has our child learned from this encounter? He has learned that he can change our mind by whining. Whereas, if we had thought through the answer first, and said yes right away, we would not have undermined our parental authority.
Start by pausing after your child makes a request. Ask yourself, “How does this request fit with our family principals?” Let’s say a child starts whining for a cookie right before dinner. You have a family principal of orderliness and that certain things happen at certain times. Therefore the answer to this request will be no, and you will not give in. Say it once and then allow your child to whine, beg and plead while you just wait patiently. When he has stopped, you can say, “Thank you for stopping”.
Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to think through the answer and how it applies. Say “YES” as much as you can, be kind and firm with the “NO” and discover the peacefulness of consistency!