There’s no question about it: consistency is crucial when it comes to raising and disciplining our children. Many parents I see in my office realize that they need to work on being more consistent – with bedtimes, limiting junk food, or just in general – when they interact with their kids. But there are others who have placed such a high priority on consistency that it’s moved into a rigidity that’s not good for their kids, themselves, or their relationship.
Let’s begin by getting clear on the difference between the two terms. Consistency means working from a reliable and coherent philosophy so that our kids know what we expect of them, and what they should expect from us. Rigidity, on the other hand, means maintaining an unswerving devotion to rules we’ve set up, sometimes without having even thought them through. As parents, we want to be consistent, but not rigid.
Kids definitely need consistency from their parents. They need to know what the rules are, and how we will respond if they break (or even bend) those rules. Your reliability teaches them about cause and effect, and about what to expect in their world. More than that, it helps them feel safe; they know they can count on you to be constant and steady, even when their internal or external worlds are chaotic. In this way, we provide them with safe containment when they’re exploding because they want an extra scoop of ice cream.
So how do we maintain consistency without crossing over to rigidity? Well, let’s start by acknowledging that there are some non-negotiables. For instance, under no circumstances can you Continue Reading »
Q: My almost-five-year-old son is starting to lie. I’m worried that this is starting a terrible pattern, and I don’t know how to handle the situation. I’m just really upset because I’ve always stressed how important it is to tell the truth.
A: First, take a deep breath. This is typical behavior for a child. Most kids tell fibs at this age. In fact, lying is developmentally normal, and if he’s doing it to avoid getting in trouble or disappointing you, it is actually evidence of a developing conscience and moral code. He knows what he’s done is wrong, so he lies to avoid being bad or to avoid getting in trouble or losing your approval. If he’s doing it to be silly and trying “story-telling” out, it’s evidence of creativity and imagination.
So now, let’s talk about how to respond when kids are lying to deny that they did something wrong. When I know my son is lying, I try not to say, “I don’t believe you,” or, “You’re lying.” Instead, I say, “Why don’t you take a minute and think about what really happened and then start over.” Sometimes I also say, “It’s really important that you tell me the truth and tell me what really happened so I can believe you when you tell me things.” For smaller children, it’s even OK to sometimes simply say Continue Reading »
Resist the temptation to rescue your children every time they struggle. Struggling a little bit, and having to learn to deal with difficult situations and emotions, is great for kids. When they’re NOT given many opportunities to deal with disappointment about not getting their way, and not given opportunities to have to be flexible and figure out how to solve a problem, they’ll have trouble developing these skills. It’s important that they practice giving in and being flexible to the needs of others in the family as well. And as they get older, they should be given more and more chances to do this.
Allowing our children to feel sadness, disappointment, resentment, and other tough feelings, allows them to develop empathy as they mature. The next time they have a friend or sibling experience one of these emotions, they’ll have a much better feeling what it feels like.
Another reason not to rescue too much or solve too quickly is that when we do, we are communicating with our actions that we don’t believe our kids can do it, or that Continue Reading »