Friday, 22 May 2009

How to Be More Consistent with Your Children

(earn peace, earn happiness, earn a great life)

Mrs. Ellis and her five children moved into a school district where I worked. Within the first week, each child had been sent to the principal at least once. I asked Mrs. Ellis to meet with me. She agreed. I began to give her my pep talk on consistency. She interrupted. "I know I need to be consistent," she said. "Right now I am tired. I need a little vacation from consistency."

She had five children who needed consistent follow-through. It took a lot out of her to be consistent. Every now and then, she let go. She gave up-not completely, just temporarily. That was the problem.

You cannot be consistent some of the time. You must be consistent all the time. That is not easy: it is exhausting, it drains your energy, it weakens your spirit. Here are seven strategies that will help you be more consistent.

Emphasize Priority Behaviors

The first strategy that will help you be more consistent is the idea of priority behavior. A priority behavior is a behavior that you are going to manage with special diligence and focus. A priority behavior can be positive. If you want your children to cooperate with each other, cooperation is the priority behavior, so focus on cooperation. Catch your children cooperating and praise them. This will teach your children that you value cooperation.

A priority behavior can be a misbehavior. Many children develop misbehavior patterns. They display the same misbehavior-such as arguing, whining, or disobeying-repeatedly. Your child may exhibit several misbehavior patterns. Attempting to work on all of them at once would be impossible for you and confusing for your child, so choose one or two patterns as priority misbehaviors. Be aware of these misbehaviors at all times. Never give in. Do not reward them. Be consistent. This will not be easy. There will be times when you are tired and will not want to follow through. If you do not, you will pay for it later.

Priority behaviors help you focus. It is difficult to be consistent with every misbehavior. Identify one or two priority behaviors and focus your energy on them. Be consistent and diligent with priority behaviors. Your children will learn to behave more quickly.

Remember to be positive. Every misbehavior has an opposite, positive behavior. Watch for positive behaviors while you are consistent with priority misbehaviors. Suppose your child's priority misbehavior is having tantrums. Be consistent and never reward the priority misbehavior. Never reward any tantrum. You must also reinforce your child for not having tantrums: "I'm glad to see that you did not cry when I told you that you could not have a candy bar. I really appreciate that. Thank you."

When you are consistent with priority behaviors, it will have a positive effect on all other behaviors. Your children will generalize what they learn from one situation to another. It is like having a two-for-one sale on good behavior: be consistent with priority behaviors and get improvement in other behaviors free. How could you refuse such a deal?

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