I’ll admit it. It’s the end of the school year. We are all running out of steam, kids, parents, and I’m sure we can add teachers to the mix as well. Do we really have to finish strong? Let me be clear. There is a difference in being flexible and being consistent. Sometimes we just can’t get to school on time, or miss a homework assignment. Life happens. That is different from being inconsistent and all over the place.
Why is consistency so important to kids?
Kids thrive on predictability. They like to know what comes next. They need to know what is expected of them. Kids also need to know we as parents and caregivers will do what we say. Kids don’t act like they want or need limits but they do!! When we say “if you do that one more time……” and then don’t follow through with a consequence, kids know you don’t mean what you say. Children learn through repetition. They learn over time how to push our buttons and also how to predict our reactions to their behavior. Example: When I don’t get up for school on time and dawdle all morning, my parent will_________”. Every kid knows the answer if the parent’s response is consistent. “If I scream loud enough in the store, my parent will________.”
Let’s put it in terms we as adults can understand. What if one day the store was open and the next it was closed and there were no set hours? What if your friend said she/he was picking you up at a certain time for work every morning and did some days and not other days? This produces anxiety because we can’t predict the response.
How can I become more consistent?
Here are a few ways to start. First, be aware it takes time and patience to change a behavior. Don’t expect results over night. Stick with it!! Second, set realistic expectations that are developmentally appropriate for YOUR child. Third, don’t overhaul all those rules in your house at once. Can you imagine if someone told you no more of what you liked to do such as watching your favorite show, changing everything you were accustomed to doing all at once? Last, follow through with consequences and reward behaviors you want more of. Some parents say, “I’m not rewarding my child for doing what she/he already should be doing”. OK. Remember that, when your boss says I expect you to bring in $5,000 more this month in sales. If you do, you get a bonus. But you should do it because you have a high work ethic and don’t need recognition or a bonus check. Right? Kids want to please their parents!!! Rewards help to reinforce a concept so it becomes a value that is internalized. Gradually the reward is extinguished when the job becomes second nature like making your bed in the morning.