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Discipline: 6 Tips On Being Consistent

Discipline: 6 Tips On Being Consistent

Consistency is vital. Your children need to be able to predict how you will behave (Mum expects me to brush my teeth. If I don’t, I won’t be allowed a bedtime story). But inconsistency can make children feel unsure, insecure and confused (sometimes I have to brush my teeth, sometimes not. If I make a fuss, I can usually get out of it. But Mum sometimes gets angry too).

Consistency is a comfort for children. It’s unfair to change the rules or apply them erratically, and it’s not an effective way for your child to learn how to behave. It’s tempting to give in to whingeing or temper tantrums to make life easier. But in the long run, it just makes life harder.

So, how can you do a better job of being consistent? These tips will help you, and your little one, stay on track:

1. Choose your priorities
If you try to tackle every discipline challenge at the same time, you’ll be too overwhelmed to stick with it. So choose just one or two to focus on with special diligence and attention. It might be defiance, refusing to go to bed or demanding sweets. When these situations arise, be on top of them every single time. Don’t give in and don’t reward them.

2. Be prepared for the long haul
It can take time to tackle misbehaviour. Put yourself in your child’s shoes: “Mummy never used to really mean that she wanted me to brush my teeth until she started shouting. Now she means it the first time she asks. I’m confused.” Change can happen, but probably not as quickly as you’d like it to.

3. Get the timing right
It’s tempting to try a crash course in manners just before a birthday or family visit, but you’ll have better success if you choose a time that’s more stable and predictable. Everyone needs time, structure and no extra stress to practise consistency — especially you. So don’t jump into a new discipline strategy just before a new baby arrives, or school starts, or if you’re moving house.

4. Expect resistance
Your child will challenge you no matter how consistent you are. Or he may respond well from the start, only to fall back into old habits. Don’t despair – this kind of periodic testing is normal. Once you accept these temporary regressions, they’ll be less frustrating, allowing you to stay on track.

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5. Don’t try to go it alone
Once you commit to a consistency campaign, get backup. Your partner and your child’s teachers, carers and grandparents can all reinforce your efforts to stop behaviour problems.

6. Bend the rules occasionally
Accidental inconsistency – when you’re too busy or preoccupied to enforce a rule – sends the message that it isn’t really important to you, which encourages your child to ignore it too. But intentional inconsistency – when you let your child know in advance that you’ve chosen to make an exception – can actually strengthen a rule. For example: “As you’ll be spending time with Nana and Grandad this week, you don’t have to tidy your bedroom until next week.”


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