Can consistency in parenting be bad?

I once worked with a mother and her three-year-old son (who was more like the size of a six-year-old).  She told me that she was trying really hard to be consistent with the way she disciplined him but the consistancy wasn’t having a positive effect on her child’s behavior.  I asked her to share with me the disciplining techniques that she was using.   She responded that she consistently put him in the corner when he would misbehave and she consistently had to restrain him in order for him to stay in the corner. Additionally, I observed that this mother consistently got upset with her son when he misbehaved, consistently corrected him on nearly every misbehavior – both large and small, and consistently gave him repeated reminders before she would follow through with discipline.  This mother reported that this type of interaction had gone on so long that she didn’t even enjoy being around her son anymore.

Before thoughts of criticism arise in our minds about this mother, let’s first recognize that she was trying hard to be a good mother, which in her mind meant being consistent with her child.  What she didn’t realize is that she was being consistent in using ineffective parenting techniques.  Over time, consistency in ineffective parenting tends to lead both the parent and the child to become frustrated and resentful toward one another. The parent will find more success in shifting his/her focus from being consistant, to applying effective parenting techniques.

First and foremost, in order to effectively correct a child’s behavior, a parent must have a good relationship with the child.  If the parent does not have a good relationship with the child, the likelihood of the child changing his behavior is low, and if the child does change the behavior, he is likely to harbor resentment toward the parent until years later when that resentment rears it’s ugly head (often during the teenage years).

Secondly, consistency in parenting works best when parents use effective parenting techniques.  For instance, some effective techniques for a situation such as the one above  may include:

  • Choosing just one or two behaviors to focus on
  • Setting limits by telling the child what you will do rather than what he will do
  • Coming up with an effective plan to address those specific behaviors
  • Getting the necessary help and support from others
  • Implementing the plan in such a way that the child suddenly realizes how easy it was for you to handle him (this is done without anger, threats, or repeated warnings)

For more information on using effective parenting techniques, visit some of the following tips.

Threatening Your Child

How can I have more influence on my children?

How parents can destroy the effectiveness of consequences

Sometimes kids just need a little practice

Have a great day.

 

Written by Shiloh Lundahl, LCSW on January 2, 2012