The Importance of Consistency
As the seasons change, it is a good reminder that many things do not remain constant. We are forced to ebb and flow with the changing weather. Many of our activities are moved indoors, our outdoor hobbies change, and we start to settle in to the grounding and recharging seasons of fall and winter.
As adults, we are very resilient to change. We’ve had years of experience, allowing us to know what is happening next. We have time to prepare ourselves and to settle in with the fact that change is coming. However, this is not true of our younger friends.
Change is an incredibly tough concept for our children to grasp. They thrive off of consistent routines, consistent behaviors, and consistent consequences. It can be tough though, as many parents feel like they aren’t nearly consistent enough. However, when kids know what to expect next, there are no areas of doubt.
Consistency puts action behind your words; it shows your kids that you mean what you say. When you set a boundary and only follow it occasionally, your child has no idea when they are going to get in trouble or why you are enforcing it now. Consistency gives your words power, and prevents you from having to take action every single time (often a different action every single time, which is exhausting). Kids rely on boundaries for comfort, for reassurance, and for feeling successful and proud. When parents are consistent from the start, children learn what they can expect from their parents. Consistency gives the child a sense of security. They learn that they can rely on their parents and trust that their needs will be met.
Young children also find comfort in consistent schedules. Keeping regular routines with them is an important part of consistency. Days are less hectic and power struggles are less frequent if a child knows what’s expected of them throughout the day.
When it comes to discipline, children are less likely to test boundaries or push limits that are firmly set when they know that there will be consequences for defiant behavior. They learn that “no” means “no”. Consistency teaches children cause and effect relationships, which helps them as they grow with their ability to make wiser decisions.
Inconsistency can lead to a number of problems because of the message it sends. Consider this for example: Your child is crying when he has to go to school one day. You give into him, take him home, and spend the day with him. The child gets the message that if he cries, he does not have to go to school. A few days later, the child cries again. This day, however, you have to go to work. The child is now confused, perhaps feeling anger and resentment towards you. Rather than learning what is not acceptable behavior, your child has learned that you are unfair, and is still unclear on what constitutes proper behavior.
If you have not been consistent with your child, it is never too late to begin. You may find it difficult to instill good habits and enforce rules. You will most likely be met with resistance that will test your own patience. However, in the long run, developing consistent routines, boundaries, and consequences will benefit both you and your child.
Here are a few ways to be more consistent:
· Plan ahead—Have a consistent routine each day and plan ahead for activities that veer from the normal schedule. Communicate these with your child ahead of time, allowing them time to process.
· Make sure you and your partner are on the same page—If one thing is okay when the child is with mom, but it is not okay when they are with dad, this sends mixed messages to the child. Be consistent across the board.
· Involve the kids—Sit down with your child and clearly explain what their boundaries are and what their consequences are. This way they are not caught off guard when they are disciplined for not following set guidelines.
Rest assured that no one is consistent 100% of the time. However, striving for consistency the majority of the time is not unreasonable. It will surely make your day go much smoother and both you and your child will reap the benefits of consistency.