I was talking to some friends and family over the holidays about 'consistency' and realized that A, it's a HUGE important concept in regards to kids and B, it's a term not many people are familiar with. I was mostly met with, "what?", "consistent about who?" "I don't understand." So, let me start with a basic definition when it comes to consistency and kids.
When you are consistent, your actions and words are almost always the same. So in regards to children, you say the same thing or perform the same actions before, during or after an activity (routine, etc) and it creates stability. Wow, when I actually type out the definition, it does sound confusing. So let me give you a few examples so you can see how it works wonders for kids.
When you are setting limits or disciplining your kids, consistency is key. When your child acts out, setting the limit, even if they are screaming and crying, is being consistent and not caving in. Say you are at the grocery store and you have told your child they can't have that Snickers bar, but after whining about it and asking 11 times you say "no", but on the 12th time you give in- then that child has learned that on the 12th time of asking, they will get what they want. See, if you had been consistent, as hard as it may be, they will learn quickly not to push mommy's buttons and when she says 'no' the first time, she means it.
Another example I gave my friends this weekend was about when your child is in a daycare, school or babysitting situation. Children need to have their caregiver drop them off at the same time and pick them up at the same time everyday- they need this consistency so they can trust their environment and it can prevent separation anxiety. If you pick them up at different times each day, they get highly anxious and scared. Imagine if you were waiting for a ride or the bus and each day it came 10 minutes late one day, 20 the next and then 15 minutes early the next day- you too wouldn't be too happy with them and definitely would not trust them!
Another example could be if you are moving to a new home and changing schools. Children usually regress when these changes happen, and if you as a parent are consistent in your actions and words, they will adjust much better. Keeping their routines the same as much as possible- they will regress a lot less.
I have worked with a lot of parents who are divorced in the past, and I have told them the best way to help their children through the drop off between households, is to have the same routine each time you drop them off at the other parent's and when you pick them up. For example, when you pick your child up from their dad's house, make sure you are always on time but also choose an activity to do every time afterwards. Such as playing a game like Candyland every time you get home, or take them to the park every time you pick them up. They will feel so much safer and trust you if they know what to expect and what comes next and adjust to the 'back and forth' much easier.
When children don't have consistency and don't know what to expect or what comes next, it creates a lot of anxiety! Kids need stability like nothing else. Plus, consistency is key to children behaving well. And we all love it when kids obey us, right?
Any thoughts on how consistency affects you and your children?