All parents have days when they wonder if they’re meant to have children. I know I had those days. Perhaps you’re having one today! It’s so frustrating to know that you’re handling everything wrong and not be able to do much about it. It got me to thinking about parenting ups and downs in general and the whole subject of consistency in child-raising.
Inconsistency is the enemy of good parenting. It happens when we say things we don’t mean, do things we’d never ordinarily do and make rules and decisions that often change. Our kids need the security of knowing what to expect in their day-to-day lives. They need to know there is order, in everything from what time dinner is to be served, to what we will do when they misbehave.
Setting limits can be difficult for us to do, but limits are crucial for children’s feeling of safety and belonging. When they know where they stand with us, they can relax and operate within those limits without worrying about the results their behavior will bring. In families where there is consistency, there is less misbehavior because kids do not have to constantly test their parents in order to see how far they can go.
As parents, we must say what we mean, follow through and carry out our promises and be firm about schedules. But we’re human and our consistency depends on how we’re feeling physically, how we’re feeling about ourselves, our relationships with our partners, friends and business associates and the progress of our careers. If we’re feeling insecure and unhappy about ourselves it’s very difficult to keep saying “no” to a kid’s constant badgering at the candy counter – especially if someone’s watching (and someone usually is!). Because we aren’t perfect and never will be, and because life is full of whammies, we’ll never be totally consistent.
The odd lapse on our part, the infrequent bad day, won’t have a disastrous effect on our kids. They’re quite elastic and bounce back with amazing courage and tolerance. If inconsistency and turbulence are more than occasional however, children feel insecure, disorganized and unimportant. They need regular mealtimes, bedtimes (even though they may gripe about them) and play times. They need to know what they can get away with and what they can’t.
Sometimes inconsistency results from rules made in haste during the heat of the moment. It’s best to think carefully about a decision. Is the rule necessary?
Is it important to say “no” to a request? It’s better to give careful consideration at the outset and stick to your guns over a well thought out decision than to reverse yourself later under pressure from your child or your own conscience.
Schedules, plans, rules and decisions affect the whole family. The whole family needs to be involved in making them. A family discussion can result in a fair decision that rarely needs to be changed unless circumstances change. If you wonder how to go about such a discussion, I can help you. It’s amazing how the family wheels click along when oiled with cooperation and friendliness. Please be in touch and take me up on my offer of a free chat.
We all have our bad days once in a while. They won’t hurt as long as they’re happening against a background of secure, firm, consistent decision-making and parental leadership.
Do you have ideas to share on how to set limits in your family? I welcome any suggestions and comments!
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