Consistency and Consequences: Parenting Strategies for setting Boundaries

Oh the joys of parenthood! Oftentimes discipline is a parent’s least favorite part of raising children. No one enjoys having to provide consequences to poor behavior, but it is arguably one of the most important aspects of raising happy, healthy, and thriving children. A better way to think of discipline is by simply referring to it as learning. I mean, that is what discipline is, after all! Your child learning how to behave and navigate the world around them.

Children need boundaries. Children need rules. Setting boundaries, limits and rules for your family actually helps them feel safe. Even as adults we can relate to the concept that having too many options or having to make all the decisions is overwhelming, so imagine being a child with no boundaries. It can be overwhelming and anxiety provoking for a small child, so don’t hesitate to set rules in your home. It assures them that they are being taken care of.

Once you have set your boundaries, the most effective way to teach your children is through consequences. Essentially parenting goes back to an old concept that you probably learned in high school psychology called operant conditioning. Operant conditioning essentially shows how rewards or punishment can help learn appropriate behavior. So providing consequences whether they be rewards for good behavior or a negative consequence for poor behavior can help your child learn more quickly and effectively.

Make sure that your children understand the reasons for the consequences ahead of time. If they understand the consequences prior to making their decisions, they are less likely to feel resentful and angry. This will also aid in their learning process.

Now that rules have been set, and consequences have been determined. The most important aspect is consistency. For example if your toddler has a meltdown in the grocery store, and you give in to the temper tantrum, they will learn that temper tantrums are effective ways to get what they want. Likewise, if you start the habit of praising them for polite and helpful behavior, they will soon begin to repeat this behavior.

Anyone with kids understands the reality that some days that are just harder then others. Perhaps it is a phase they are going through that just seems to not end. Perhaps your little one is really testing their boundaries one day, but not staying consistent can make the learning process harder. For example, if you give in the temper tantrum after 5 minutes of crying in the frozen food section, it may turn into a battle of the wills. Your little one may learn that they need to push that far next time in order to get what they want.

On days that are more difficult than others, it is important to remember that it is OK for a child to struggle with a limit or a rule. It is even a sign that your child is effectively learning how to test aspects of the world around them. Instead of trying to immediately please your child, remember that you are trying to teach your children skills that will serve them well into adulthood. They will have more maturity, resilience, adaptability and feelings of safety and connection in their future.

Parenting can be difficult and is arguably the hardest job there is. Don’t forget to forgive yourself throughout your parenting journey. Reach out to friends and relatives for support. If you are interested in speaking with psychologist about effective ways to set boundaries and consequences with your child book in a time to speak to a psychologist call us on (02) 6262 6157 or book an appointment online. We would love to walk with you through this journey!

Related reading:

Guidelines for setting effective rules
How to choose a child psychologist

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