The Answers to Parents

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All in one place for the first time, parents can find answers to the many questions that come up all through a childhood.



The Answers to Parents Most Common Questions


Must I always be consistent?

Parents often wonder how important it is to be consistent when setting limits. Should they stick with a rule in order to help their child learn what’s expected of him? Does consistency teach the child that he can’t always have his way? Will bending the flies harm him or cause parents to lose control?

When parents are consistent, they provide their child with a sense of what is and isn’t acceptable behavior. And in some areas, such as vital safety rules, consistency is essential. Yet, if parents tried to unfailingly enforce every rule they set, they’d spend all of their time saying, “No, don’t do that,” and, “No, you can’t have that.” Virtually every parent makes exceptions to the rules, depending on circum stance and personality. Some parents are quite flexible, others generally inflexible. Yet, they all find themselves at some point saying, “No, not today,” then changing that to, “Maybe,” and finally saying, “OK”

One father took his daughter to a convenience store. The girl said, “I want a Coke,” but her father replied, “I’m only going in this store for milk and eggs.” The girl said, “But I want one Coke for me.” The father said, “I’m not buying you a Coke, but I’ll give you a drink when we get home.” Minutes later the father and daughter walked out of the store. The father held his bag of eggs and milk and his daughter walked out with a Coke—with a straw in it.

Parents often fear that when they give in, their child will expect the same response the next time a similar situation arises. But as long as parents are generally firm about discipline, they can make exceptions and still stay in control. When they show some flexibility, they let their child know that his desires are important, and that life is not too rigid. He learns that sometimes people get what they want, and sometimes they don’t, and he learns what compromise feels like. And he has the experience of occasionally winning a struggle with his parents.

You probably find that time, place, and mood influence your decision to stick to a rule or give in. Sometimes you feel tolerant, and other times you’re impatient and tired. In public, you don’t want to be embarrassed by your child’s behavior. You may be especially likely to give in when you need to distract him because you’re working or you are on the phone.

One mother would not generally let her son mix spices and water together in a bowl as he had done with great enjoyment at a friend’s house. But he learned a way around the prohibition. Whenever his mother took a business call, he would start getting spices off the shelf, usually with his mother’s reluctant help. She needed to keep him quiet when she was on the phone, and gave in.

If you’re concerned about consistency, consider your overall relationship with your child. If you generally give the message that he is loved, cared for, and accepted, and that you have basic, firm expectations about how he should behave, you don’t have to worry about incidental exceptions you make. Being reasonably consistent is good enough. After all, you can’t enforce a set of rules at all times. Flexibility is an important part of life, and give and take is an important part of parenting.






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