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Consistency and the Crayon War: You’ll Teach Your Kid a Lesson, But at What Price?

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I’ve heard over and over how important it is to be consistent with your kids. But any parent knows this is one of the hardest things to do — you get tired, you get frustrated, you negotiate when you should insist, and sometimes, the little people win by default. Consistency is important because it helps kids to anticipate outcomes, which makes them more even-keeled, amongst other things. With idle threats out of the equation (not that threatening your child is ideal, but you know the kind I’m talking about), allegedly you should have an easier time when power struggles arise because they know you mean business and won’t hold out for your surrender. 

Of course, it is possible to be consistent — and mean business — and totally shoot yourself in the foot. (As I did the other day.) Lately Coraline has been making giant messes and refusing to pick them up. She made one such mess, maniacally throwing her colored pencils and crayons around the living room, just before bedtime. It was no time for a power struggle, so I admonished her the task would be completed first thing in the morning. Bad Call Number One. Needless to say, she never picked them up. Instead, they all ended up in the garbage. I was in a rush before work, frustrated, and not feeling well, so when I told her she had one more chance to pick them up or I would throw them in the garbage — a pathetic and desperate last ditch attempt to get my way — and she looked at me with a big smile and said “no,” they had to go in the garbage. It was the consistent thing to do. Coraline cried for 10 minutes and then got over it. But now she has no crayons, and I’m the one who will have to replace them. I don’t know who learned more from that one.

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