Being consistent is one of the hardest things for parents to do. It is so easy to get swayed by incessant nagging or by seeing your child's eyes brim over. This is something I discuss with parents at length in my private consultations, as each family varies so much and so do their children's temperaments. It often takes some unpicking to see where a parent would benefit from being firmer and how to go about it. There are many different ways to stay firm and I've tried to summarise a few below to give you some ideas.
Felix adores chocolate. Aged 3 he was at his grandpa’s house:
“Grandpa, do you share your chocolate sometimes?”
“Yes darling, I do sometimes.”
”Oh, do you share it with little boys…?”
- Be very clear about what your rules are and make sure your children understand them.
- Where possible, write up the rules for everyone to see. A reward chart or checklist is often the most effective method.
- Decide on the consequences of breaking a rule. For example, the consequence of getting down unexpectedly in the middle of a meal would be that the meal is taken away. Watching a screen outside the agreed time means that the next screen-time slot is forfeited. Being slow to get ready for bed means a shorter story.
- If you have said a child can't do something, then stick with it, even if it means they get very upset with you. Remember you are not there to be a friend, but to be a parent who has wisdom and foresight, and whose role it is to guide the child to be a responsible, caring and considerate adult.
- Make sure that they earn their privileges through good behaviour, rather than constantly threatening to remove their privileges for poor behaviour.
- Tell them 'when you have done x, you can have or do y'. Avoid saying 'if you have...' as it gives them the impression there is a choice.
A story from my family
There are many times when I have managed to stay firm with the children, despite them telling me, 'You’re the worst mummy in the world', 'I don't like you' and 'You can't come to my party'. The following story is a good illustration.
At nursery, Scarlett (then aged 4) was being particularly slow putting on her slippers so I explained that I had little time to wait and that I would leave unless she sped up. She continued at a snail's pace so I kissed her goodbye and left without taking her into her classroom. She was devastated and I could hear her crying as I walked out which absolutely tore me apart. I didn't make a big deal of it when I picked her up later; in fact we didn't even discuss it. However, the next day she said, ‘Today I’m going to be quick so that you have time to take me into my classroom, Mummy.’ My actions had really made an impact on her and she understood the consequence of her behaviour.