Consistency in Discipline

broken down fence to portray lack of boundaries in disciplineThe room was eerily quiet considering that it held over twenty preteens. The young man facing off against me was tall enough to look me straight in the eye when he declared, “You can’t make me.”

My teacher training took over, reminding me that confrontations should never take place in front of other students. I said quietly, “Let’s step out in the hallway.” As I turned and walked toward the door, I prayed that he would follow.  I was relieved to hear him walking behind me, because I didn’t know what my next step would be if he didn’t obey.

In the hallway, I explained my expectations for his behavior in my classroom. I also told him the consequences that would happen if he ever again chose to defy me as he had just done a few minutes earlier. We returned to the classroom where he behaved for the remainder of the day.

It wasn’t over. The next afternoon after lunch, he again refused to do what I asked. I said, “Come with me.” We went to the principal’s office where I delivered the first of only two “whippings” that I would give in my entire teaching career. After that, the young man was a model student in my class. He even excelled in high school doing well in sports, academics, and leadership.

We All Need Boundaries

Have you ever worked for a boss who didn’t tell you what was expected of you? I once worked for a man who seldom gave directions and guidelines until evaluation time. Throughout the year, I felt that what I was doing was probably wrong, but I wasn’t sure what was right.

If Boundaries Are Not Maintained, Kids Will Constantly Check

When cattle are in a fenced area, they accept the boundaries of their grazing area. Suppose the fence blows down in a storm and the cattle escape. By the next day, the cattle have been rounded up and the fence is mended. However, now the cattle see the possibility of escape and continually check the place where the fence was down.

The same thing happens with children. If you say, “You may not take drinks into the living room,” and strictly enforce the rule, soon everyone accepts that they will stay in the kitchen with beverages. If, however, you allow them to break the rule once, they are convinced that somehow they will be able to get you to do it again. They will continually “check the fences.”

Consistency Is the Only Way to Make Discipline Work

I am going to say something that comes from my teacher training, counselor training, and years of experience in schools and with my own children and grandchildren. I know this to be true.

In the classroom and in my home, I have proven over and over that inconsistency dooms good discipline. Just when I thought I had it going, I let the fence down for a little bit, and I was back to the beginning. I had to redo weeks of training.

Consistency Is the Cornerstone of Discipline

In my next post, I will get down to some specifics of disciplining rebellious children, but I needed to get that cornerstone of discipline out on the table for consideration.


Questions: Do you agree about the importance of consistency? Let me know what you think. Why is it so difficult? I found it hard to be consistent. How about you?











  1. says

    Yes, I completely agree that consistency is both vital and difficult. The reasons vary. When the kids were little, I feared that they would make a scene in public. Other times, I’m just plain tired. Leave a hole, though, and they charge right through it!

  2. says

    Reflecting on my parenting, one of my reasons (oh, how I hate to admit this) was that I wanted my children and their friends to like me. I didn’t recognize that as a reason at the time, but I think it was a factor. After all, making them and their friends take their drinks back into the kitchen made me pretty hard-nosed. Okay, so now I’ve confessed!

  3. Janice says

    Excellent article! Consistency in discipline was and is extremely difficult. During my teaching years, guidance in consistency of disciplining my students was a constant source of prayer for me. God was my ever present partner and for that I am grateful.

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