Regulating consistency can be as simple as responding to situations and actions regarding house rules, in the same way, every time. It is very important that whatever you decide on, that you maintain it. This involves setting a goal and sticking to it.
Example of NOT responding consistently to situations or actions:
Last week, Tommy asked if he could have dessert before dinner, and the reply was, “You know the house rules. Dessert is for after dinner, only.” This week when Tommy asked the same question, the reply was different. Why is this a problem? By giving a new reply, it creates an inconsistency with the house rules stated the previous week. Children, like adults, need stability to thrive. By not following through with the guidelines that you have provided, you are depriving your child of that stability.
*Of course, in life, there will always be exceptions. Changes and unexpected circumstances are inevitable. That being said, if your routine must change, be consistent about explaining to your children the reasons why it must change, and preferably, express this change before it takes place.
Example: “Next week, when Grandma comes to visit, you will be able to have dessert before dinner. This is an exception to our house rule, and after Grandma goes back home, we will continue having dessert after dinner.”
By explaining the situation beforehand, you have acknowledged the change prior to it being made. This allows the child to anticipate it. Not only that, but you have also made the transition clear. Once Grandma goes back home, things will go back to normal. This helps the child to understand the boundaries of the house rules so that there are no uncertainties.
Establishing trust is the cornerstone of importance when it comes to creating a healthy support system for your child.
One of the best ways you can establish trust with your child is by making sure to respect his/her preferences and boundaries. Each child is different, so each child will display his/her preferences and boundaries in different ways.
Example of a child displaying preferences/boundaries: Father comes home from work and gently pats child’s head. The child frowns and pulls away. The father asks, “why did you pull away?” The child responds, “I don’t like when my head is touched.” The father nods, “Okay, I’ll remember that.” The following day, the father comes home from work and greets the child with a smile. Instead of touching his child, he asks, “How was your day today?” The child smiles and replies, “It was good.”
What do we learn from this scenario?
The child is sensitive to physical touch. They displayed this by pulling away. Instead of ignoring this, the father asked a follow-up question to get further information to better understand the child’s perspective. When the child responded that they did not like their head being touched, how did the father respond? Did he force his child to conform to his own level of comfort and boundaries toward physical affection? No.
After the child expressed their boundary and level of comfort, the father took note of their preference. The following day, when he arrived home from work, he made a point of respecting his child’s boundaries. What is the result? The child now feels a level of increased comfort toward the father. By respecting his child’s sensory boundary, he has established trust.
Another way to create a healthy support system for your child is to make yourself available. By making yourself available to your child, you show them that you value them with your time. This reassures them of their importance, not only to you but as individuals. (This also helps boost their self-esteem.)
Example of making yourself available: Mother is making dinner in the kitchen. Her son comes up to her with something important. “Mom, I need to talk to you.” “Can it wait?” Mom says. “No, I need to talk to you right now.” What do you do?
The truth is, sometimes, the answer needs to be, “not right now.” If you are in the middle of something, like cooking dinner, and you are dealing with time-sensitive things, sometimes, you cannot provide your child with undivided attention at that exact moment. That being said, there are ways to go about this to maintain a healthy relationship with your child that both show that you value them and that their feelings and thoughts are important both to you and in general.
Example of how to respond if you CAN’T talk right now: Pause from what you are doing and give direct eye contact (in some cases, where appropriate, you can establish focus by gently placing your hands on your child’s shoulders.) “I’m very busy right now cooking. If I try to handle dinner and our discussion at the same time, I may burn the food or not be able to focus fully on what you are saying. I would like to hear what you have to say and give you my full attention. As soon as I am done here, I will sit down with you at the table, and we will talk. Okay?”
Key points about this response:
- Mom gave direct eye contact and focused on the child, validating their self-esteem and expressing genuine interest in what they had to say. Why is this important? Because this reassures the child that mom cares about what they have to say.
- Mom didn’t say, “maybe later.” Instead, she gave a definite response, “we will talk,” and she even set a specific time and location, “as soon as I’m done here, I will sit down with you at the table.” What does this do for the child? This establishes stability. They have a definite answer.
- And finally, mom gave an explanation as to why she could not provide undivided attention at that moment. By doing this, Mom was teaching her child that “time and place” are important and relative to sharing thoughts. This is something that all children will need to learn as they grow. By giving this explanation to your child when they are young, it will help prepare them for adulthood without inflicting damage on their self-esteem. Rather than feeling confused about why they couldn’t have their parent’s attention at that moment, they will understand that it is not personal; rather, it was simply not the right time and place.
By implementing these three things into your child’s life, it will significantly increase your child’s level of comfort and trust in their support system.