The Importance of Consistency in Parenting


Picture this: One day you walk into work and your supervisor says you did a great job on your last project. The next day you come to work and your supervisor criticizes you for that same project.

If you get angry with your child one day for throwing his toys and make him clean them up, but when he throws his toys the next day you clean them up for him, can he predict how you are going to act when he does this next time? No. What your child is learning in a situation like this, is that if he puts up with a little bit of yelling from you, eventually you will clean up for him.

The Takeaway: The consistency of your behavior is what shapes your child’s behavior.

Why is it so difficult for us to be consistent? Not only simply because we are human, but also because as parents, urgency usually takes the place of consistency. It is faster for us to pick up our child’s toys than to argue with him about doing it.

Not only does consistency in parenting improve children’s behavior, but it also creates a feeling of security, encourages your child to be responsible for his actions, and settles anxiety by increasing predictability. When you are consistent, you show your children that you mean what you say, and this gives your words power.

Tips for Maintaining Consistency

  1. Write down simple rules and stick to them.

  2. Create consequences for breaking rules. Breaking different rules can have different consequences. These consequences should be realistic, or else you won’t carry through with them.

  3. Respond to behaviors with quick, emotionally detached warnings. You don’t want your emotions to power your response.

  4. Choose your words carefully. If you worry you might cave in after saying “no”, then don’t say “no”! Say “maybe” or “we’ll see” instead.

References: Melbourne Child Psychology, Empowering Parents

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