Discipline Vs. Consistency

One key difference between discipline and consistency is our will/desire. It is easy to be consistent with something you have a great desire for. If you love ice cream it takes little effort to eat it every night. Discipline requires consistency but discipline is more than being consistent. Discipline is a bending and training of our wills and desires through doing things that aren’t already second nature. This is why eating ice cream has yet to make it on a list of spiritual disciplines.

Power of Positive Parenting – Getting Past Your Past

We all have models of how we do things. Over the course of our lives we learn how to be a husband or wife, father or mother, friend, etc from what we have been modeled. Nuclear families are not always the norm any more so I am going to write this very generally. For the most part fathers learn how to be a father based on what they saw their father do (a model) and the same is true of mothers, wives, and husbands. This is one of the reasons I normally ask couples in pre-marital counseling to imagine what kind of problems might arise if they could imagine the groom’s father married to the bride’s mother because there is a good chance those dynamics will be similar to the dynamics of this couple when they get married. We do what we know and we know what has been modeled for us. Why do people who were physically abused as a child have a higher likelihood of abusing their children? They don’t want to do that to their children but a fairly high percentage do because that was the parenting style that was modeled for them. Modeling is powerful.

There is good news and there is bad news. If you had good models growing up there is a higher likelihood that you will have a healthier parenting style. If your models were pretty poor then it is going to take a more concentrated effort to parent effectively (of course that is a generalization). One reason for that is called homeostasis is a word that basically means by default we will tend to revert back to a consistent pattern of behavior. That pattern of behavior is usually what we were modeled growing up. But the important piece of information is that we are not doomed to repeat our past. We can change it. To parent in a way different than how your parents did it is very hard and takes an intense amount of effort and will power to break the mold and consistently do things in a different way. Those who didn’t have the best models often have to get past their past. They have to gain momentum to jump over the hurdle of poor parenting styles they were modeled during their childhood. This is an important reminder for parents. The track you set for your child in how you parent and discipline them will likely continue on for many more generations. It is important that you parent effectively because if you don’t, the effects can be seen for years after you die.

How do you get past your past and become a healthy role model for  your children?

1) Identify the positive things your parents taught you about how to be a good parent. They probably never sat down and said, “This is what it takes to be a good parent…” but you know what these things are because you know what was effective in how they parented you.
2) Identify the negative things your parents taught you that were not good parenting skills. These must be identified and discussed with your spouse to give you support to make sure they are extinguished from your parenting repertoire. If your spouse had a tough childhood try to encourage them when you can tell they are really trying to break from their past.
3) Remember, children are constantly watching and learning. Children are active observers. Like little sponges of learning they are constantly soaking up information from their parents ranging from what to do when you get angry to how to deal with other people.
4) Children do what they know. That is called imitation. How do they know what they know? They learned from their role model – the parent. We often think of a role model as something healthy and it can be. Parents need to be aware that through their modeling children learn positive and negative behaviors. Be mindful that how you deal with stress, frustration, anger, obstacles, and how you deal with others are all observed an often imitated by your children.
5) Teach your child healthy conflict resolution. Many couples do not disagree in front of the children. I understand the sentiment but children also need to learn that it can be healthy to have a mature and controlled disagreement. How else are they ever going to learn conflict resolution if their parents don’t model it for them?
6) Children want consistency. If you are loving one moment and angry and screaming the next that doesn’t send your child a healthy signal and certainly does not contribute to giving them a healthy sense of self and well-being. Be calm and consistent even when they make you angry. Remember they are watching and if you deal with them in an angry way, chances are they will carry on that behavior into their future.

To read more posts from this series:
The Power of Positive Parenting
Defining Discipline
Understanding Functional Behavior
The Power of Attention
Dealing with Non-compliance and Commands
7 Rules for Consistent Parenting

Power of Positive Parenting – 7 Rules for Consistent Parenting

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.