Parenting Post #2: Consistency and Parenting
Consistency is the key to so many things: catching fly balls, adhering to a healthy diet, implementing coping skills. It is also a key part of parenting and, much like practicing a sports technique over and over and over, it’s not always the most pleasant practice. It applies to parenting in a variety of realms and, annoying as it may be at times, it is crucial to providing your child a sense of boundaries and safety—where your child’s world begins and ends. When you are consistent, your child will know what to expect and both your behavior and his will flow smoothly from that place. During the “new normal” of being confined to the home and remote learning, in many cases, consistency is more important than ever; even though it may be very tempting to become lax, which may feel easier on you in the short term, this will backfire in the long-run, when normalcy finally returns. Some examples will follow below and hopefully be a guide on how to implement consistency in your parenting and reap the benefits of a calmer household and even less anxious children (or at least children who understand limits and boundaries to things you don’t want to give them—treats, TV time, video games, toys).
“No means no” is something we’ve all heard or said far too many times, but it is probably top three in Important Things You Need To Do To Be Consistent. Yes, it’s great to start off doing this when your child is very young, but even if you haven’t been doing it until right this minute, it is not too late to start! When you’re asked for treats, TV, etc, you feel worn down, like an ancient rock in a creek—the water has gone over you so many times that your once robust surfaces have been rubbed smooth and you want to give up and give in. This is not the time for that! Rally your inner troops and teach them that they can ask once for something but if you say no, that is IT. Game over, no more asking, the answer will always be no. If your child has discovered that repeatedly asking produces an irritated “fine, have it, what do I care!?” response, the child will keep asking because, even if the parent is annoyed, they will get that pack of gummy bears. Now you’re in a feedback loop of resenting your child and yourself for this doomed loop from which you cannot extricate yourself. Is it fun to start saying no? Of course not! But if you can stand your ground and do it every time, you will see changes: kids will stop asking you so frequently and even if they do ask, just to see if they might get lucky, they won’t pitch a fit (as big of a fit) when you say no. Through repetition, they will respect your “no.”
The Swift Rush to Judgment. This is what I jokingly call the implementing of consequences aka Following Through. If you are always saying something like: “If you don’t stop doing X, I’m going to give you a (insert consequence here)” or “If you keep doing X, we are going to leave this (insert friend’s house, playground…)” but then you don’t actually follow through, your child will quickly learn that you make empty threats. This is where the Swift Rush to Judgment comes into play. When the child does do X, you immediately implement the consequence. Don’t wait, don’t let them bargain you out of it, make it happen and make it be something that makes sense to the child. But choose wisely! If you have a 3 year old being difficult at a playgroup and the consequence that comes out of your mouth is “we’re leaving if you don’t stop that,” then you’re going to be leaving too…leaving your friends and the support of being with them. So, be sure that the consequence doesn’t also hurt you. Some reasonable consequences could include, no screen time tomorrow (for school aged children who understand what tomorrow is); gently taking away the toy that the child is having an issue with; taking the child “out of the mix.” Removing a child from an experience can be the most useful consequence of all: everyone wants to stay in the mix, where there are fun and friends. This is not a time out, this is going into another room or outside for a few minutes to regroup—it’s not punitive but, rather, a way to calm down.
To conclude and as a reminder: this won’t be pretty at first. You might feel uncomfortable; your kids may give you a hard time or throw a few tantrums. But if you stick with it, you will see results! Remember that old saying about catching a thousand fly balls before you can catch almost anything? That can apply here, but it will definitely not less than a thousand times of implementing strategies to become a consistent parent—probably more like a week or two. You will likely find that your home is a calmer place and you are maybe even a calmer person!
Parenting Posts presented by Claire Brown, LSW
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In these uncertain times, when everyone was quickly forced to juggle work from home roles, remote learning responsibilities, heightened anxiety about keeping your family nourished and healthy, on top of personal fear of the unknown landscape of life during coronavirus, parenting challenges have been augmented. We are introducing weekly Parenting Posts which will provide helpful information, skills and support for those in parenting roles – during the global health crisis and beyond. The obstacles faced by someone in the parental role did not begin during coronavirus and will not end with the outbreak, and this weekly blog will provide long lasting skills.