Children require so much energy. Parents must be "on their game 24/7." Perhaps the toughest element in childrearing is remaining consistent in a world where parenting is such a "trial and error" endeavor. Although parents you don't need to be perfect, it is important to be as consistent as possible so that your child will know what to expect and be less likely to manipulate you.
Consistency Requires Some Forethought
I encourage parents to be slow and deliberate about their rules and expectations for their child. Kids are experts at negotiation and they will frequently bombard you with reasons why they might want more freedom, extra privileges, or increased independence. As a parenting coach, I encourage parents to use the phrase, "I will get back with you on that" as they consider a child's request. Then with all the consistency they can muster....they need to thoughtfully evaluate the situation and decipher what they intuitively believe is best for their child. When they share their decision, they are to deliver the information with a quiet authority that conveys that their decision is not up for further discussion. (This may mean leaving the room to avoid defending yourself.)
Here is where the consistency comes into play....Under no circumstances should you allow them to re-engage you in a discussion....because you know they will inevitably where you down.
Whenever possible, it can be helpful to give your child two choices that allow him some opportunity for independence and decision making. When they are young it might be letting them pick out one of two choices of apparel to wear. As they get older it may look like letting them decide on spending their money on one of two types of games to buy for their Xbox. When they are teens it may result in them deciding whether they will be spending the night at their friend’s house on Friday or Saturday. Handing out the choices, allows you to ultimately create a safe and healthy structure while your child gets to exercise some mindful decision making.
Remember they will balk about how stupid you are for controlling their destiny by deciding on their choices, but restricting choices allows them to have some say in their destiny without handing them the keys to the car before they have learned how to drive.
Safety is always of utmost importance when it comes to childrearing. And sometimes the most painful aspect of parenting is watching your child experience natural or logical consequences that occur when they participate in the school of life. When a child chooses not to do his homework and gets a bad grade (a natural consequence) he might likely lose his Game Boy privileges because homework comes first at your home (a logical consequence.) If your child refuses to brush his teeth and has 3 cavities (natural consequences) and you stop buying sweet snacks to decrease the likelihood of more cavities or dental bills (logical consequences) you will likely watch your child suffer through the consequences and protest about how unfair you are being. If your child does not practice his instrument and his teacher admonishes him in public (natural consequence) and you stop paying for his instrument (logical consequence) you may fear that you have made it easy on him to "be lazy" when in reality, he may not have found what he truly loves and will work for!
Parenting is about making tough choices....but conscious parenting helps your child to understand the consequences that life has to teach him!