Consistent discipline — one of the hardest things for parents to master. Do you have trouble sticking to your guns? You’re not alone.
Let’s listen in as two teen girls discuss their parents’ discipline.
Overheard in a classroom
Two thirteen-year-old girls sat in my empty classroom. School didn’t start for another twenty minutes, but students often sought refuge in my room when it rained. As teens often do, they forgot I was present. They were discussing a party planned for that night.
“Mom said I can’t go unless she knows the parents and knows they’ll be at the party.”
“Aw, my mom says that, too. But if I beg long enough, she’ll give in.”
“My mom never gives in.”
“When my brother was still at home, he quit begging and just ignored her. If she told him to do something, he acted deaf. She’d get so mad. What she didn’t know–he went to parties, did whatever he wanted, and never told her.
“I can’t lie. My guilt shows.”
“Your loss. It’s gonna be fun.”
The bell rang, and their conversation ended as other students poured into the classroom.
Why is consistent discipline so hard to do?
When I was parenting, I found consistent discipline tough to do. I had many excuses:
- I was too busy to follow through,
- I didn’t check around with other parents,
- And sometimes, I gave in to begging.
All of those are examples of inconsistency.
What I should have done:
- Only told them to do what I was willing to enforce.
- Not allowed them to push me past my limits, beg me, or ignore me.
- Checked on them or followed through to see that they obeyed.
What happens without consistent discipline?
Listening to the two girls in my classroom, I realized that kids know how to manipulate parents—when to beg, when to ignore, and when to deceive. It’s our responsibility to outsmart them.
We actually give our children a sense of security when we insist they follow our rules. Research has shown that kids without known, enforced boundaries to their behavior have more difficulty becoming independent adults. They are less likely to know how to self-regulate because they spent their youth with boundaries they could manipulate. Perhaps the answer is to give fewer guidelines and consistently enforce those few we do give.