Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Parents University--Consistency

Kat, over at The Secret Life of Kat, is hosting Parents University on Thursdays. Session one is this week and the topic is discipline. So here is my two cents--don't forget to head over to Kat's blog to see the other contributions!

This is certainly a broad topic, but I guess what I want to focus on today is consistency.

That was a buzz-word for me going into parenting. I thought that to be a "good" parent all I would have to do was be consistent in disciplining my children. Feel free to laugh here! Aren't we all great armchair parents before we actually have kids?

Anyway, three children later, I do still think it is important to be consistent. If a specific action or disobedience will result in a specific punishment today, then it should always result in that same punishment. That way the child knows what to expect and can thrive within those boundaries.

The point where this became the most difficult for us was when we realized that our second child does not respond to discipline in the same way that our first does. It was hard for us (okay, mostly me!) to accept that we would have to treat each child individually. It would be so much easier to have a cookie-cutter answer to every situation, but in reality that just doesn't work.

One of my sons is VERY strong-willed, the other is very compliant, and as such, they respond very differently to (and require more or less) discipline. So to get the best response out of each one, we do discipline the two differently. We are still consistent with each child, and we do have expectations of both that are the same, but their punishments will vary according to the child. And we always make sure that their punishments are private to protect the dignity of our children.


Kat said...

Good post, Lisa.

Do you the boys ever complain about having different punishments? If so, how do you handle that?

Just Mom said...

Consistency is incredibly important. I'm afraid, though, that there are times I haven't been as consistent with my son as I should be.

Oh! And I understand about having a boy who is strong-willed. Yikes.

kddub said...

I'm beginning to realize that I have to discipline my two boys differently as well. My oldest is very strong willed, and my second is very compliant, and sensitive.

I also wonder, (as in Kat's question) if they'll think it's unfair in the different ways they are disciplined.

Lisa H said...

Kat and Kristin,

I did wonder if anyone would ask that. The boys NEVER compare discipline/punishments and Sam and I were just talking about why that might be.

We do a few things that I think help out.

One is that we always try to correct in private. If one of the boys requires something (a spanking, a stern correction, a time-out, whatever...) I'll take that child to a different room (often the bathroom, to ensure privacy) to deal with him. And we won't come back out until there is an attitude change. I really do try to focus on leading my children back to scripture, so while we're in there we are talking about what their sin was, why it was wrong, what the bible says about it, etc... The point is that this is done in private and it allows the offender not to feel ashamed or embarrassed. If there is an apology required, that is still done when they come back out, but otherwise we don't keep talking about the thing that was done wrong in the first place. (What I'm trying to say is that once they've been forgiven, it's over. End of story. Does that make sense?) So after all that, they don't tend to talk about their specific punishments.

The second thing is that we do try to discourage too many comparisons between the kids. My boys have so much in common and they are often treated alike, but they ARE almost two years apart. So there are going to be different expectations from my four year old than from my two year old. And I do try to help them understand that.

So I hope it continues and they don't start feeling like they aren't treated "fairly." I guess one more thing is that our rules are clearly defined (they know how they are supposed to act) and so when they are disciplined they usually expect it because they know what they have done wrong.