Our family was at a Chick-fil-a children’s play area recently, and while our younger children played, I found myself noticing another mother trying in vain to get her two children to come down out of the play structure. She tried calling nicely, then she tried shouting meanly, then she tried threatening (“No ice cream for you!”), then she sat down in frustration and waited for the children to decide to come down on their own. It was a dramatic scene for all around, as the children ignored their mother’s repeated pleas for obedience.
When they did finally come down, she walked out into the restaurant and bought them the ice cream anyway! Even my six year olds (who were watching the drama as well by this point) looked up at me and said, “Wow. They didn’t listen and she bought them ice cream as a reward?
We need CONSISTENCY in our parenting. I think most parents know this, but actually living it is challenging. Right? We know children thrive on boundaries and consistency, so they really aren’t the problem–we are! 🙂 Every once in awhile, my hubby and I will look at each other and realize we’ve been letting little things go (that are now turning into bigger things!) and we need to step up the consistency.
Whether you’ve been consistent in the past, and, for whatever reason (new baby, busy schedule, a big move, etc) you’ve let behaviors slip, or whether you’re a newer parent who needs some specific help to begin building consistency into your day—either way, this is the post for you!
Let’s get practical now. Here are 6 steps to begin (or renew!) consistency in your home:
- Clear your schedule if necessary. Purpose to slow down for a few days so you have time to be consistent in helping your children obey.
- Communicate with your spouse so you’re both prepared to be consistent in the same areas.
- Remember your composure—stay calm, collected, and in charge of YOU. Use a quiet, firm voice when telling your child to do something–no yelling.
- Say what you mean and mean what you say. If your children are used to ignoring you, and your words mean nothing, start small, with if/then or if/when instructions you can easily follow through on. For example, don’t say, “Go clean your room.” or “Go to sleep.” or “Stop whining.” Instead, try these kind of phrases:
- “Sit down on your bottom, and I will hand you this snack cup.”
- “When you’re done cleaning up these blocks, we will watch a video.”
- “Eat this piece of sandwich, and then we will get our dessert.”
- “As long as you are laying quietly in bed, I will tickle your back.”
- “When you use your respectful words, I will be happy to get your chocolate milk.”
5. Build off of the if/then and if/when type commands with action commands. (and by action, I mean your action). 🙂 Don’t say anything if you don’t intend to get up immediately and help it happen.
- “Couches are for sitting. Get down.” (Follow through immediately if child doesn’t move by getting them down.)
- “That is your brother’s toy. Give it back to him.” (Follow through immediately by helping the child hand over the toy.)
- “Sit down in your highchair. (or on your blanket, or the chair, or whatever)” (Follow through immediately by actively sitting the child down while you’re saying the words or shortly thereafter.)
- “We do not throw balls in the house. Take the ball outside.” (Again, follow through immediately by helping the child take the ball outside if they’re not moving to do so on their own.)
6. Once you’ve begun saying what you mean and meaning what you say, and you’ve determined to get up every single time you tell your child to do something and help it happen, you have the beginnings of consistency! You can begin expecting more and more. You can even begin proactive training (more on this in a later post).
Our children have to know that we mean what we say, or our words will fall on deaf ears (like the little ones in the Chick-fil-a play area!). Maybe you’re thinking right now, what about correction? What if the child rebels when I try to help them obey? What about consequences?
Stick around. We’re getting to all of that. 🙂 (Correction and Consequences just happen to start with “C”, too!) I’m trying to build these steps in somewhat of an order, from the more abstract (Having the Courage to parent with GRACE to Clearing our vision and Embracing our Credentials), to the planning stage (Communication with our spouse and Planning our family Convictions) to the hands-on practical side of grace parenting. Remember, I’ll have a printable chart of the 16 “C’s” at the end of this series. I know I need this visual reminder!
Today’s Challenge: Check your consistency–do your children listen to your words and move to obey them? Do you need to plan a few days at home to work on consistency? Don’t forget to communicate with your spouse about this plan! Determine to get up and follow through every time today.