Power of Positive Parenting – 7 Rules for Consistent Parenting

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Consistency is one of the most important parts of effective parenting. There are a lot of parenting techniques and programs out there. The most important thing is that you decide what you are going to do to discipline your children and stick with it.

One of the reasons we have to be 100% consistent in our discipline is because of the power of reinforcement schedules. Studies have been done where children are rewarded 100% of the time for something, rewarded randomly, or not rewarded at all. Guess which behaviors were the quickest learned and repeated? I may have tricked you here. It was the behavior that was rewarded on a random basis. But I thought you said be consistent. Okay stick with me here. What I am saying is if you are wishy-washy on your discipline (letting negative behavior go unpunished part of the time or even reward it sometimes…through your attention, giving in by buying the candy bar because of their whining, etc) it is going to be the hardest thing to break them of. Be 100% consistent in  your discipline and they will be far less likely to pick up on negative behaviors.

Rules for consistency in parenting:

1 – Don’t make promises you cannot keep. They will learn not to trust you and that you don’t mean what you say. Why behave in the store because they won’t reward me anyway?
2 – Don’t threaten punishments you aren’t willing to follow through on. If you have to go to grandmother’s house today don’t threaten that they will have to stay home if they don’t obey in the store or pick up their toys. There is no way to be consistent if you promise or threaten things you will not or cannot do!
3 – Don’t let the only thing you are consistent on be inconsistency.
4 – Come to an agreement with your spouse on what type of discipline you are going to use (specific rewards and punishments for specific positive and negative behaviors). If one of you disciplines in a different way when the other is not around or even fails to discipline at all it will short circuit the learning process you are trying to train your child with.
5 – Learn to consistently only offer commands one time. This teaches them not to dawdle and teaches them that you are serious.
6 – Consistently reward and punish swiftly. If you wait more than 5 minutes to discipline a young child they won’t even know what you are disciplining them for by the time you get around to doing it.
7 – Consistently set expectations of how they are to behave in advance of a situation. Most children really do want to know what to do, what is expected of them, and what good behavior really looks like. They really do want to please you. You may have trained them to try the wrong things to do it but that really is their desire.

7 Responses

  1. I am loving this series, Matt. We sometimes have a really difficult time with our youngest son (of 3) because of inconsistency. I KNOW that’s what the problem is, yet I don’t always muster the energy necessary to stay consistent. I especially appreciate the advice to discipline immediately, and to not wait until I’m so frustrated that I pull out my “angry voice.” In the last 2 days of staying calm while issuing my requests only one time, I have seen incredible improvement in how well my son listens to me.

  2. Lisa,

    Glad to hear things are going better. Three is a tough age but it is also the perfect age to begin to implement many of these things. Any younger than three and a lot of kids just won’t catch on yet.

  3. What would be the perfect age to start punishing? … I mean you do reward a child starting from month 1 but it tends to be really hard to discipline them at an age of …lets say 24 months or so.
    Personally… I feel a child must be allowed to do what they want..till around 4 or 5 and then you would start being firm with em.

  4. Age 3 is when they are generally aware enough to start picking up on attention as a reward (through giving attention) or punishment (through withdrawing attention). Timeout is generally not that effective for most kids until age 3. It works earlier for some but 3 is a good rule of thumb.

  5. Great ideas! #2 is vital. As a therapist I see people breaking this all the time and it is such an easy thing to accomplish – just let what has happened go by if you aren’t going to follow through. But parents are human which is really the first rule. Kids know, parents know – we are going to screw up. This gives kids the room to screw up to – to know they are o.k. even when they don’t get it right. And since we are all parents for awhile we get the opportunity to try things over and over again – Thanks for the blog

  6. I stumbled onto this website because I am a pastor who is trying to find information to a series of sermons on the family. Thx for your imput. I promise to give you credit when I quote you. 🙂
    One thought I had was that we have to differentiate between babies and toddlers. Babies cry when they are hungry because this is the only way they can let us know. Toddlers on the other hand, are able to tell us in a variety of ways. Perhaps some parents never get out of the crying phase with their children. Todddlers learn that if they cry they will get their way. By the time they are three they are little monsters masquerading as little children.

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