So here’s the thing, I’m pitching my tent and it’s ok if you don’t belong to the same camp as me.
I had a wonderful conversation with a friend (actually a child-free friend) and we were talking about parenting and different styles. Her comment stuck through “so you basically need to pick a side and stick to it” That was it – plant your post and fly your flag high.
Why ? Because actually, you owe the consistency to your child. If you want the best for them, pick it and stick to it. The biggest problem I see with parents I work with is inconsistency within parenting. I see so many people pick a little bit of that and a little bit of this, or they try one thing for a week, give up and then dash on to the next suggestion solution and all the while claiming nothing works and they have a damaged child.
It doesn’t matter be it sleep, help with tantrums or just general behaviour techniques, the best and most effective solution I can suggest is be consistent in your approach. Not only that but make sure every adult working with your child sings the same song from the same song sheet.
I’m not a fan of those books that suggest a hard and fast routine for children and babies. In fact, I actually couldn’t think of anything worse to do to a child. However, the key to their success is the consistency. Yes, people become obsessed and a slave to the rigid constraints of the enforced routine but at the core its the consistency that young children appreciate.
Children need security, that doesn’t just come for our standard hierarchy of needs, but also from knowing what their day is like, they like to know what comes next. Let’s be clear they have no understanding of time, so nothing anyone tells me is yet to convince me that sticking to the same time everyday matters, However following a pattern really helps babies and young children feel secure and when they are secure they cooperate more. When they are secure they sleep better, when they are secure they don’t need to work at getting our attention so much.
You want your child to sleep in their cot, then you need to stick with it, it might mean you sleeping on the floor next to them for 6 months but they will be in their cot! Want your child to sleep better then stick to a familiar bedtime rhythm. You want your kids to leave the park easily then stick to the same message.
Even how we speak to our children needs to be consistent. Daniel Siegel in Parenting from outside talks about how inconsistency in how parents react can lead to a disorientated attachment disorder, which will affect adults and relationships later in life. Nothing is harder for a child than not knowing how a parent will react to a situation. Can you imagine how confusing a message we send when one day we laugh and the next day we shout for the same thing!
Now I get it, sometimes I’m too tired to be consistent, sometimes I’m not able to be centred enough and sometimes things I can usually cope with one day I can’t the next. But let’s not forget that is not our child’s fault but ours and that is a whole post of its own though.
It’s not too dissimilar to anything in life. If you want to succeed you need to be consistent.
Imagine going to your favourite coffee shop and they do this perfect coffee, then one day is crap, you give them another chance and it perfect again, yet the next time you go it’s rubbish again. Would the inconsistency make you not want to visit there again? would it stop being your favourite coffee shop if you couldn’t guarantee what standard of coffee you were going to receive? Do you want your child to see you as the unreliable coffee shop? Do you want your child to question whether you love them or not?
And there the crux guys, hard as it may be to hear, all inconsistent parenting does is make your child wonder why you stopped loving them and what they did wrong.
So make a plan, discuss with your partner and family and get on board how you are going, parent. Research, read, chat to as may be people as you can, but ultimately do what does the least harm to the children involved. Define your boundaries, get clarity on contentious situations and negotiate how you embrace those emotions, Life will be easier once you pitch your tent in the campsite right for you and the children in your family.
Life changes, the world is changing, but you as a parent can decide to be the support that holds it together, the one constant In a child’s life.