Something I've been thinking a lot about this week is consistency. Consistency has become very important in our lives, especially since we had kids! Someone came to me this week and asked for some parenting advice. This was very humbling because I do not consider myself a parenting expert! I mean, my kids are only 6, 4, and 2...they're not even finished yet! But I tried to pass on a few things that I have tried to implement with our kiddos, and one of them is consistency.
There are a couple of areas where consistency is important, at least in this house! One of them is "The Schedule." I find that the more we keep to a set schedule, the more smoothly the household runs. Kids seem to need the security of knowing that the same things are going to happen in the same way on a daily basis. Secure kids tend to be better behaved kids! I have a weekly schedule that doesn't really fluctuate, and a daily schedule that is a little more flexible, but still gets things accomplished. For example, my boys know that after lunch is nap, and after nap is TV time, and after that it's playtime until supper, and so on. I know some parents who are more spontaneous, and that seems to work for them, but we try to emphasize flexibility when there has to be a change made rather than live from one minute to the next. (I'm sure this has it's roots in my OCD...I have always enjoyed doing the same things at the same time on a daily basis. This helps when life is going crazy around you!)
Another area (and this one is a little more difficult!) that I try to be consistent in is the area of discipline. This was what the person approached me about earlier this week. I'm pretty sure we've all heard the principle that kids need boundaries. But, more importantly, they need to know that when they cross those boundaries, you will be there waiting for them with the consequence! This is an easy area to neglect...I've done it myself, more often than I care to admit, especially with the 2 year old. (He was a slow talker, so this lulled us into thinking he understood less. We weren't as tough on him as early as we were with the other two. This is beginning to change though...slowly but surely!) The hard part for me is getting so caught up in work I'm doing that I let things slip past that I should have jumped on right away. I usually do this by correcting verbally something I should correct umm, lets say...physically. :) This is especially true when we are running errands, or doing some thing out of the home. And the things about kids is this: when they sense a weakness, they will invariably exploit it! This has led to us keeping a "discipline instrument" in our van! It has come in handy on several occasions...just yesterday, in fact! (I bet you can't guess who...we have officially moved into the "Terrible Twos!)
Something that I have come up with that has helped myself and the boys is a "Consequence Chart." I made a chart of negative behaviors and the amount of "correction" to be received. Also, I found a verse of Scripture that outlines the Biblical principle we are trying to instill and wrote it next to the offense on the chart. That way I can just say, "You have done this, go check the chart and see what your consequence is." We mete out the punishment, and then I go over the verse that corresponds. This way they are learning that their behavior offends not only us, but God, and they must ask forgiveness accordingly. This takes it from "You're just mad at me" to "I have done wrong according to the Bible." The boys pretty much already know what they have done and what it will earn them. The "big ones" like lying and disobedience receive more than some of the other, smaller infractions. This has also really helped in the area of disciplining in love and not in anger. (It gives everyone a minute to calm down, and makes sure the child knows exactly what they have done wrong.)
In our house, consistency is important for keeping an "even keel." And with three rambunctious boys, anything that helps cut down the crazy-ness is a very valuable commodity! :)