The Oxford Dictionary defines consistency as “the quality of achieving a level of performance which does not vary greatly in quality over time” Well… That’s easier said than done, especially when you have children, busy workdays, hockey games to supervise, homework, baths, shopping and cleaning up to do, and that it all triggers well-deserved mood swings.
It is obvious that parents gain credibility in the eyes of their children through being stable. Repeating that a child will go to his room if he does or doesn’t do this and that but never actually sending him to his room looses a lot of credibility. A child needs to be guided and who better than his mom and dad can do it? By guiding him and being stable, a parent helps his child discover his rights, his limits and what is prohibited.
Children need a routine in their everyday life; it is necessary to their balance. Change is disturbing for them and requires too much adaptation and energy. As far as their education and discipline go, it is the same; children have a fundamental need for consistency. Imagine if, every morning, someone had moved your office, workshop or tools around and if you had to do something different every day!
Of course, in no time, you would become frustrated and aggressive. It is the same for your child: if every day is different, if the rules keep changing and if we change his habits without warning, it is normal to observe stress, crises, frustration and anxiety in return. A young child needs to know his limits. It reassures him and helps him find his way. It is the same for pre-teens and teenagers! The more rules and limits you set and the more stable you are in your education, the better it will be in the long run.
Rules and a good routine make many children feel safer. They allow children to see adults as reliable and trustworthy persons. Firm rules are not necessarily rigid. For example, a rule may be suspended for a special day or an event, but it is important to make sure to clearly tell the child that this is an exception, a privilege.
People can have difficulty with the words rules, limits, frameworks, as if these concepts represented something negative, while rules, limits and frameworks are everywhere, every day, in our lives and in our society. If your child does not know where your limits are and how you react to his behaviour, he will proceed by trial and error and go all the way to test you.
Communication remains the key to success. Learning to communicate with your child, to make your requests and give clear instructions will not only grant you consistency but also a better harmony in your relations with your child. A child needs to be listened to and understood to develop his self-esteem. Through listening to your child, you will be able to establish rules that are good for both parties and make it easier to maintain consistency for you and your child.
Of course, these rules will not always please your child but some rules will leave no room for negotiation. For example, wearing a helmet to ride a bike may not please your child but it will be non-negotiable on your part. Your child must also understand that you are the adult and you are responsible for his responsibility and well-being because you love him.
However, your curfew could be negotiable. For example, if you say 8:00 p.m. and he says 8:30, you can settle for 8:15. You child will feel victorious to have won fifteen minutes and it won’t make a difference for you. Both parties will be happy and when it happens, it will be easier to stick to your plans and keep some consistency. Listen to your child, no matter how old he is and make sure to listen well and try to meet his needs because it is his way to express himself and be understood.
A precious tool
Progress tables are wonderful tools to help with the rules, habits and keeping consistency. You can find on the web a wide variety of table models that you can print and use at home. For example, a table of good habits on which you can tick a box every day if a rule has not been respected. The child then knows automatically that there will be consequences that will follow. This type of tool can allow you to have demands and expectations clearly identified by your child.