Consistency is a troubling word for parents. Do I have to be the same all the time? What happens when I lose it? Does it mean I have to discipline the same way for each infraction? Consistency in discipline means responding in ways your child can expect. There is nothing more confusing and disruptive for a child than to never know how your parent is going to react. As the dictionary puts it, consistency means responding in a way “that is necessary for the sake of logic, accuracy, or fairness”.
The importance of logic and fairness cannot be overstated. When “consequences” (the politically correct word for punishment) seem unfair and illogical (which they all do unless natural or a logical choice the child makes), children resist or learn to get sneaky and even lie to avoid them. We all know what we did to stay out of trouble. Fairness and logic does not mean responding the same way all the time, i.e. going to one’s room or timeout every time behavior is inappropriate or inconvenient. For a child to learn self-control and self-discipline, a parent needs to approach all infractions from a similar place of fairness and logic; from a set of consistent principles that inform each decision a parent makes. The parent’s response can be different in each case, but the principles remain the same. The child learns what to expect and what not to expect.
Every child knows his parent is going to lose it from time to time. Consistency means how that loss of judgment is repaired. Do you lose it and blame your child for your emotions and behavior or do you lose it and take responsibility after emotions calm? If the child trusts that his parent will go over the situation and make repair or if he trusts that he will get a chance to tell his side of the story, that brings consistency to the problem. Things don’t get swept under the rug. Everyone is always held accountable and taking responsibility for ones actions and emotions can be expected.