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consistency works like magic for parenting

Feb 29, 2008
The need for consistency in parenting cannot be over-emphasized. You need to be consistent in what you say and do, and you need to be consistent between the two of you.

When you are not consistent, you expose your weaknesses and your children learn to manipulate you and play one parent against the other. But, you are only human and it's an arduous task to achieve consistency. And what can you do single-handedly, if the other parent shows no inclination to improve his/her parenting style?

See, if these suggestions will help:

In order to remain calm and maintain consistency, you need to have a plan. You know your situations and you should make a plan how to deal with them

The idea is to pre-empt the situation and if it still happens, your plan will help you deal with it calmly by doing what you have already planned.

Otherwise you will act out of habit, which can be quite detrimental to the purpose and the child. For example, you will lose your temper on one occasion and react differently the next time in a similar situation. This sends confusing signals to the child who doesn't know what exactly to do.

Set your priorities right. Be firm on the matters you consider important and relent on the unimportant issues. Remember, your child is not a replica of you. Allow some space to your child to grow into an individual in his own right as long as he doesn't overstep the basic norms of good behavior.

For example - putting their feet on the sofa. Allowed, or not allowed? It is your choice - but whichever way you decide, stick with it. Don't tell them to get their feet off one day, and then allow it the next.

Honestly, it is these grey areas that cause the maximum stress. If you are not clear about them, you can't expect your children to read your mind when you want something done in a particular manner. Once you make up your mind you will see how the stress goes away.

But what if you have a plan, but your partner keeps undermining it?

Now this reveals a great deal about your relationship as a couple. This is the area where you need to work on your relationship. Make sure that you discuss the children calmly and rationally, rather than use them as pawns in some kind of power games between you.

I am not suggesting that you should agree on everything - but you should be able to agree to disagree. The important point is that no matter what your differences of opinion you should support each other in the presence of the children.

Otherwise the kids will simply go from one parent to the next looking for the answer they want.

Consistency between parents is very essential and can be achieved by planning ahead. You should sit together and jointly plan the strategy by discussing your rules and expectations. The best way to do it is to read a parenting book together. This helps you come to decisions fast because, even if you disagree with each other, the book will provide the final answer. Stick to it!

Some parents find it difficult to agree on even fundamental ways of handling situations. This often stems from different styles and beliefs.

You can only be true to yourself. The same for your partner.

This may result in some very different parenting styles - one being permissive the other being authoritarian. The children are not stupid. They will quickly work this out, and will know what they can get away with and with whom.

There are ways to overcome this situation if you do some introspection and try to understand the other's point of view. Rather than let the children acquire wrong attitudes, it is better to put yourself in the other's shoes. And, as they say, if it hurts, it must be hurting the other too. So, start by working on yourself, and you will see how fast the other changes too.

Make amends before the situation gets out of control and the time comes when one parent completely destroys the authority or credibility of the other parent. This is a distress signal for you to take note of and do something about your relationship. If you don't, your children will learn to disrespect all types of authority, and you will gradually lose all respect for yourself too.

The trouble is that people become complacent in their familiar grooves. Habits are hard to break. But, for the sake of your children you need to work on yourself, if you want something to change. Change yourself; it's easier than changing the other.
About the Author
Dr. Noel Swanson has years of experience in helping parents with child behavior problems. To read more of his expert parenting advice go to his website and check out his GOOD CHILD Guide manual, jammed full of practical parenting advice.
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