Children need boundaries. Boundaries enable them to draw a map of their world in their head which, in turn, gives them a great sense of security and stability.
And the way children learn boundaries is through consistent parenting. Being consistent allows children to predict with 100 percent accuracy what will happen. They quickly learn how far they can safely go – and what the consequences will be if they cross that boundary line.
If, on the other hand, consequences change from day to day, how can children learn the rules of the home, let alone the outside world? Inconsistency causes confusion in children, which, in turn, may be misinterpreted by adults as disobedience.
The key to being consistent is to keep it simple. Children need simple, predictable consequences so they can make good choices. And parents need simple, predictable consequences that they can employ as a correction.
This is so important because when parents are consistent, children learn that their parents are predictable and reliable. They know exactly how their parents will react in any situation because that is how they have always reacted.
Children of consistent, calm parents do not fear their reactions because they have learned that their parents never yell; they do not wonder what the consequences will be because it is always the same consequences. This creates a wonderfully relaxed, safe environment for children to grow up in.
Tips for creating consistency
- Have a simple plan that’s easy to remember. If you have to juggle too many different strategies and consequences, you increase the risk of being inconsistent. It also makes it difficult for your child to predict what the outcomes of their choices will be.
- If you introduce a new rule, be prepared to enforce it every time. This allows a child to predict the outcome of his action with 100% predictability, which in turn teaches the lesson quickly.
- Give corrections promptly. When a behaviour is corrected immediately, the lesson is learned faster.
- Be calm and loving. Children need to feel safe and loved at all times, even when mum and dad are correcting them.
Sue Edgerley is the author of ‘5 Keys Parenting: The No-Nonsense Guide to What Really Works’. It is available in selected bookstores and at www.5keysparenting.com.