Consistency is key
There are many styles of parenting and discipline. Every family, whatever its makeup has its own set of rules. Some rules are spoken and some are just “known” or implied.
In general there are 4 main categories of parenting types, Authoritative, Neglectful, Permissive, and Authoritarian. Read more here (not my words)
This is not a post on how to parent. I have quite strong views on parenting, most developed out of mistakes I have made along the way, my own experience as a child raised predominantly in the permissive model and my observations as a grandparent, nurse, midwife, aunt and friend.
To me consistency is the key.
Consistence in the rules / boundaries and consistency between caregivers.
Parenting with consistency however is often easier said than done. Often parents have no idea that they chop and change their minds within minutes.
To say “We are going to tidy up your toys in five minutes”, is clear and direct. Followed with,
“Please help me tidy up your toys now” and it means just that. Being firm about this. It doesn’t mean soon, or later, but now.
I have seen parents give out this simple instruction, then become distracted themselves by a television programme, phone call, or conversation or even forgetting they have made this statement.
What their children observe is parents saying one thing and doing another and this gives a distorted message. Repeated many times each day, it is no wonder that children cease to follow simple instructions?
Don’t give in!
I know it is tempting to give in to whingeing or temper tantrums to make life easier. But in the long run, it just makes life harder.
Children need boundaries, It keeps them safe, I believe It is every child’s right to know they can trust their parent’s boundaries. We, as parents must first become firm with our own boundaries and then apply this to parenting discipline.
“It is bedtime, (bath time, meal time) in five minutes” is a clear direction. Following through on this is consistency. Giving the direction in a calm, clear, firm tone of voice helps children to understand that we mean what we say. Being firm is about being in control of both oneself as a parent and the situation. As I improved on consistency a wonderful thing happened. I no longer yelled, I stopped threatening and nagging.
Consistency needs back up.
This brings me to my second point, consistency between caregivers. Many a parenting drama is exacerbated when different caregivers, usually parents, have different boundaries, or do not back each other up.
Mum says no to sweets after Johnny did not eat his diner. Dad gives him a bowl of ice-cream when he throws a tantrum. Dad says no to 13 year old wanting the latest jeans. Mum buys them for her anyway, when shopping “Pleeeeease Mum”.
Consistency goes also for aunts and uncles, teachers and friends. Children are smart enough to know, nor does it hurt, to have different rules at times or in different situations. We all know it happens. Grandparents may allow different bedtime at sleepovers. Aunty Wendy may allow kids to play in mud when visiting from the city. This is bending the rules a little not inconsistent discipline.
However any behaviour problems requiring boundaries and clearly stated expectations and consequences work best when applied consistently between all people providing care to the child.
Side note: Feeding my child crap was never an acceptable bending of the rules. That was a guaranteed way to piss me off. Sugar is not a treat, it is fucking poison that leaves my child angry, restless, and prone to reckless behaviour like jumping off high walls.
Wow, this has turned into a full blown serious rant. That’s okay, I am the boss of my own blog.
I am no perfect parent. I have made a stack of mistakes. Actually I told my children regularly over the years there are no mistakes, only lessons. So let me rephrase that. I have learnt many lessons in my role as a parent about raising children. I know consistency works. My children do too. Even as adults, they know that when I say. No, I mean it. They also know that if I say I will be there…I will.