The struggle for consistency

Posted by Samantha on February 8, 2012 in Being consistent, Consistency, Discipline |

It has been shown that consistency is a vitally important part of parenting.  If we are not consistent about following through when our children break the rules of our home or guidelines for their behaviour, then we can expect them to ignore those rules and gradually become manipulative as they attempt to get their own way, rather than submit to any authority outside their own.

For the record, I do not believe that children are born manipulative.  They are certainly born with the capacity to become manipulative, just as they are born with the capacity to become cooperative.  Much depends on how they are raised.

In a world of moral relativism being consistent is much harder than it used to be.

Parents used to be very clear that children were meant to do what adults said.  Always.  Immediately.  The consequence for not doing what you were told was also very clear for previous generations of parents.   Children should be smacked.  Or threatened.  Or criticised.  Or humiliated.  Or all of these at once.  Certainly it was accepted that what was called for was some version of fear-based parenting.

Nowadays, I believe that while we are uncertain about what to do in place of smacking and yelling, we are also very unsure about what the rules should even be.

Is it really the case that children should do what parents say?  Without challenge?  Without excuse?  Without delay?  Without exception?

These are essentially really big moral questions.  And I believe that they are questions that many parents have not answered satisfactorily for themselves.

The result of this is that we are wishy-washy about how we go about keeping our standards in our homes.  How can we be consistent about our standards if we’re not sure what our standards are?

When we throw in our tiredness from the demands and pace of modern life is it any wonder that we are not consistent and that many of our children are floundering in the confusion of inconsistently maintained standards.

These past weeks I’ve been really trying to be consistent about following through with the consequences of my children’s behaviour.  When I spot behaviour that is a bit challenging, I’m reminding myself that it’s only to be expected given the fact that (if I’m really honest about it) I’ve not been consistent in what I’ve been teaching my children about this particular issue.

It’s futile to blame anyone – me or my children – for the signs of inconsistency in my home at the moment.  I’ve been as consistent as I’ve been able to be.  My children have learned their lessons perfectly based on what and how I’ve taught them.

I notice that it’s only now that I’ve worked through a lot of what I think about various big ethical issues (e.g. what to discipline and how to do it) that I’ve been able to be more consistent.  Today, I’m looking forward to becoming ever more so.

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