The signature of mediocrity is not the unwillingness to change but chronic inconsistency. – Jim Collins
If you listen to or read anything about parenting, you have heard about the importance of being “consistent.” What does that mean to you? Does it sound unrealistic…to be able to consistently repeat your actions and your parenting decisions across days, emotions and varying hours of sleep deprivation?
It can be difficult. I will be the first to admit it. In some cases downright tricky.
Make up your mind!
If you struggle with this (all parents do), the best way to maintain consistency is to make up your mind about certain things you can expect to occur across your day or week when it comes to parenting decisions. Talk it out. Think about it when you are not red in the face and frustrated that you are missing out on the 4th quarter of the football game because your kid is out of control and tossed the ranch dip all over the floor.
Here are the most important:
School routines: I mentioned several things in a previous post about school year routines, including morning, homework, and evening routines. Making up your mind about these routines are huge in terms of maintaining consistency for you and your kids.
Chores: This is an easy one if you really think about it. What does “clean room” mean exactly? What is “bookbag ready” truly mean?
Why is it you have a different version of “dressed” than I do?
You know the situations when your kid argues, “but I did!!” or “it IS done.” Be specific. Have it on a list. Do not simply leave it up to your discretion. Your child is not a mind-reader and likely has different standards than you do (imagine that).
Targeting the good things: You always need to keep an eye on the ball regarding a focus for positive behavior targets. What do you want your kid to do more? Do you want them to be more polite? Do you want them to chill out and sit down for a while? Do you want them to be better at bath time? It could be anything.
Decide what behaviors you want to see more and decide how you are going set the stage for the behavior to be more likely to occur and how you are going to positively respond when it does. We don’t do this enough. We expect the good behavior to occur and reinforce itself, but there is much more to it than that. Especially if your child is struggling with a particular behavior or circumstance. Plan ahead for good behavior!
Targeting the not-so-good things: Here is where most parents get out of whack. For too many parents, punishment is a reaction. If you are raising normal kids, bad behavior will happen. Tantrums, biting, hitting, bad words, homework thrown across the room, doors slammed.
Expect it, plan for it. If it happens once, it is likely to occur again. Do yourself and your kids a favor and decide what you are going to do, how you are going to react (or not) when it does occur.
Are you going to use time out? When? How long?
Are you going to ignore the behavior? How? What happens if it does not stop? What will you do in that moment?
Look, there are a lot of mistakes that can be made in parenting that are not critical mistakes and your child will come through just fine, but when it comes to punishment, especially reactive punishment, the side effects can be pretty harmful, so please be careful and think about what you are going to do in the situations when your child does something you don’t want him to do.
Go ahead…make up your mind. Make the rule, follow the rule, trust the rule. You will be more consistent (and hopefully so will your child).