The power of consistency while parenting young children

One of the simplest ways to improve a toddler’s behavior is to be consistent

Grandpa plays airplane with his granddaughter.

One of the simplest ways to improve a toddler’s behavior is to be consistent.

Consistency in parenting means you are predictable in your expectations, reactions and actions. You will follow through and do as you said you would do.

Does consistency matter?

Being consistent when parenting can take time and energy. At times being consistent isn’t easy. Busy schedules, changes in your day or being overwhelmed yourself, can make being consistent challenging. However, being consistent has these benefits for your toddler:

  • Better brain wiring. When toddlers experience repetitive experiences it strengthens the connections in their brains that tell them what to expect.
  • More calm and curious. Toddlers are more calm when their world has predictability. Predictability allows them to feel more comfortable exploring and learning about their world.
  • Deeper emotional stability. When there is consistency in a parent’s actions and responses, the toddler behaves better. Consistent parenting also helps a toddler develop emotional security and trust which also helps lessen misbehaviors.

Consistent expectations

Toddlers get confused when one day they are allowed to do something and the next day they aren’t. Inconsistency of behavior expectations often creates a toddler who will continually test out what he or she can and cannot do. With inconsistency, power struggles are likely to erupt and both of you typically get frustrated and stressed.

Toddlers are trying to figure out how to get what they want. They are learning cause and effect, which means they are learning they can make things happen when they do something. Be as consistent as possible in how you respond and react to your toddler’s words and behaviors.

When discipline is needed, try to remain calm and firm so your toddler doesn’t get the power of making you react. Be consistent, if you said you would leave the store if your toddler didn’t stop whining and throwing a tantrum because you said no to buying a toy – then don’t buy the toy and leave the store if your toddler’s behaviors persists. This teaches your toddler that whining and tantrums don’t work as a means to get you to change your mind.

Consistent routines

Routines help a child feel safe and secure, resulting in fewer behavior issues. Routines are activities that happen about the same time and in about the same way every day. When you have consistent routines such a bath, pajamas, brushing teeth and reading a book before bedtime, your toddler can predict what will come next. This predictability helps your toddler develop independence as he or she grows older. For example, he or she will learn to wash his or her hands before dinner or brush his or her teeth before bed without constant reminders and nagging.

Your toddler’s temperament may also influence the frequency and intensity of the power struggles. To request a temperament profile call Sanford’s Parenting Line at (605) 312-8390 or email parenting@sanfordhealth.org.

Posted In Children's, Family Medicine, Parenting

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