One of the hardest parts of parenting is developing our own will to not waffle back and forth on “following through” in discipline. We really can learn to follow through calmly on what we said we would do when a child does something that is not part of the rules in our family.
To do this, I think one has to have in mind what the rules of the house or family actually are, and also the developmental expectations for that age. Think to yourself: can this child of this age meet the rules of the house or family, and in what way? What is my part in this as the parent, and what is my child’s part? The younger the child is, the more it is up to you to help the child.
Then, you have to have a set thought in mind of how you will meet this situation calmly when your child is not following the rules and values of your family. If you are very wishy-washy, you may need to make yourself a list of the child’s behavior and how you will respond just so you can be consistent and fair. It may help you avoid the really silly things that come out of a parent’s mouth, such as “You are grounded for life you twelve year old!”
This sounds easy, but isn’t it so difficult in the moment when your child is moaning, groaning, complaining, wailing? All of that can make us want to back down, or soften what we said at first and what we know is right in our hearts, which really undermines our authority.
It is part of parenting that sometimes we make mistakes and we need to change what we originally said – but if we continually back down and change what we said, give a million “chances” to make things right – then we are undermining our own authority. Our children learn that our words have no impact upon their behavior and the good of the family suffers for it. Asking a child to do or not do something fifteen times is not good!
For parents who are struggling with this, I suggest you make a list of what behaviors are really problematic and challenging right now, what you are going to do to help guide your child and meet your child where they are and lift them up to the next level, and then what will happen when the boundary is just plain broken.
Are you following through?