Consistency and Follow Through
One of the most important things that you can do to reduce the problem behavior you see from your child is to be consistent with both praise and discipline. Consistency (doing things the same every time) is very important for children because they need a sense of structure and predictability in order to do well. Learning rules and expectations is often difficult for children, so the more consistent you are as a parent in enforcing them the easier it will be for your child to understand and follow the rules in place. While consistency is one of the most important factors in improving and maintaining good behavior it is also, unfortunately, one of the hardest things to do for any parent! The following is a list of suggestions that may help you to be as consistent with your child as possible.
1. Sit down with your child and develop rules and expectations for your house. Be very clear in what is expected of both you and your child.
a. Decide on a few rules and expectations that are important and meaningful to you and your child.
b. Three to five rules at any one time works well. Too many rules can be difficult for a child to learn and follow, and remember, any rules that you establish will have to be enforced! Fewer rules will make this easier.
c. It is often a good idea to write the rules of the house down and post them somewhere that everyone can see it. If your child is too young to read, pictures can be used to depict the rules and expectations.
2. Be sure to clearly describe what will happen if your child follows the rules (special privileges, praise, etc.) and what will happen if he or she does not follow the rules (e.g., loss of privileges).
3. FOLLOW THROUGH! It is very important that once you have established the rules and expectations you follow through on the outcomes you discussed with your child.
a. When she is doing well and living up to your expectations, it is very important that you give her praise and let her know you are happy with her. This is very important and something that we often forget. Imagine if you were doing a good job at work and no one ever acknowledged you for it. You probably wouldn’t be very motivated to keep trying would you? Your child will likely feel the same way!
b. When she is not behaving appropriately, it is important that you follow through on the consequences that you said would occur. It is important that your child learn that when he does well he will be rewarded and when he does not, there will be consequences.