Parenting with consistency and predictability - Part II
Joey, aged 7, pitched a fit at the grocery store when his mom wouldn’t let him have a candy bar. His mom was embarrassed and it seemed like every eye at the store was on her. She relented, and let him have the candy “just this one time”. Mary, age 15, came home one hour after curfew. Dad was furious and grounded her for two weeks. After two days, she begged and pleaded to be let out of jail. “I promise I will never be late again” she pleaded. Dad felt bad about the severity of his punishment. He relented. Bill’s bedtime was at 8:30 p.m. All games were to be shut off, teeth brushed, and in bed by 8:45pm. Bill begged and pleaded to finish his video game---“Just one more level! I promise! I’ll turn it off!” Mom relented. Sound familiar? Sigh. Kids are expert negotiators. Teens should just be given a law degree. They don’t need to go to law school. It is difficult to be consistent—to stick to what we say, so that “yes” always means yes and “no” always means no. Why is this so important? Kids will always push for one more inch, one more minute, one more cookie, and one more TV show. Then, when they accomplish that inch…yup—they see if they can get another! It’s just human nature to see if you can get more. And if they are successful, especially when they make a lot of noise, they will up the ante the next time. That means more noise and ruckus—if it worked once maybe it will work again. And, they know your weak spots by heart. Sometimes parents are surprised when they find out that defiant Deanna always does what she is told to do by her third grade teacher. Why?--because schools have few rules, but they are ALWAYS enforced. No exceptions. “But that’s not fair” says Deanna. Third grade teachers don’t worry too much about being fair. I struggled with being consistent. My wife, Diane, was much better at sticking to her guns. My daughters figured out pretty quickly that I was an easy touch and they learned which buttons to push that would soften me up. And, I wasn’t always so good at backing Diane up. I learned the hard way “United we stand, divided we fall!” Here are some tips on consistency:
- Back each other up. Even if you disagree with your spouse, in public, in front of the kids, back each other up. If you want to debrief, talk about it in private. Agree to disagree, but stick together on rewards and punishments.
- Better to have a few rules that you always enforce than many rules that are inconsistently enforced. Think like an elementary school teacher---they have it right when it comes to getting 20 kids to do what they are told. Be consistent when it comes to those rules that you feel are important.
- Think ahead. Kids are amazingly predictable. Joey always wants more time on his video games. Mary always pushes the limits on curfew. Jill always puts off doing her homework. You know in advance where they will push. Hang tough.
Share your experiences!