Consistency - The Magic Word For Parenting
Consistency - The Magic Word For Parenting
If there is one word that is consistently heard about parenting, it is the need for consistency: consistency in what you say and do, and consistency between parents. Indeed, if you fail I this, you give ample opportunity to your children to manipulate you and play one parent off another.
But how on earth do you achieve that? And what if the other parent has no interest in improving his/her parenting style? Maybe these pointers will help:
First off, the key to both staying calm and maintaining consistency is to have a plan. Decide IN ADVANCE how you plan to deal with particular situations.
Having done that, when you find yourself in that situation you will be able to calmly do what you had pre-planned. Without that, you will find yourself put on the spot and, not having a plan, you will simply react with the first idea that comes to mind (which often involves a lot of yelling and threatening!) And next time you will probably react differently.
Decide also which battles are worth fighting - and chill out about the others.
The rule here is that if you have a rule you MUST enforce it - every time without fail. If you are not prepared to do that, then clearly the rule is not that important, in which case you should drop it. 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. If you think through all the conflicts that give you the greatest stress, you will probably find that many of them are in these grey areas.
You can't keep sitting on the fence. Once you decide which way you way to jump, you will find that much of that stress goes away. But what if you have a plan, but your partner keeps undermining it?
No easy answers, of course, since this goes to the core of your relationship as a couple. Are you able to discuss the children calmly and rationally, or are they pawns in some kind of power struggle between you?
You don't even have to agree on everything - as long as you agree to disagree. But even when you disagree, you DO have to back each other up in front of the children.
If your partner has said NO you must say NO too; and then discuss it between you privately. If you say NO, you would hope that (s)he would also back you up.
Otherwise the kids will simply go from one parent to the next looking for the answer they want. So, once again, the key to consistency between parents is the same as being consistent yourself - plan ahead.
Spend time discussing your rules and expectations so that you can come up with a coherent plan. One way to do this is to read a parenting book together and then discuss it.
But if you simply cannot agree on even fundamental ways of handling situations, what then? 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. The wider the gap between you, the more problems this will cause in daily life.
Often this results in one parent struggling with the child's behavior, while the other seems to have no problems! In that case, the most logical thing to do is for the parent who is struggling to see what he or she can learn from the other's style (and, yes, usually it will be that they are more consistent!) Ultimately it can get so bad that one parent completely destroys any authority or credibility that the other parent might have.
If that is happening to you, it is time for some serious thinking (and decisive action) about what is happening in your relationship and what you are going to do about it.
If you don't then your children will learn to disrespect all types of authority, and you will gradually loose all respect for yourself too. Remember, if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got... if you want something to change, YOU will have to do something about it.
Don't keep waiting for someone else to change first.
author of Consistency - The Magic Word For Parenting is Dr Noel Swanson MD
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