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Most parents seek guidance on how they can change the negative behavior of their children and encourage more positive behavior. We have held two workshops at Inner Space focusing on behavior modification addressing these concerns. Behavior modification is the process applied to enable the child and parents to methodically bring about the required changes. It involves setting up rules of actions and consequent positive or negative repercussions. Positive behavior gets rewards while negative behavior gets no rewards.

This is also what we often do in life naturally. However, more often than not we do it inconsistently.

How to Recognize Inconsistency in Disciplining:

How many times have we promised something to our child to get him off our back and then refused or simply forgotten to do it? ‘You’re busy and your child comes pestering you about the new toy all his friends have. He goes on and on and on about all its exciting features and all that he plans to do with it. You just have to get that report done or perhaps your vegetables are burning on the stove and that is just not the time you can pay any attention to your child. So you tell him that you’ll get it for him and he finally lets you be. It’s such a relief that you can get back to your work and have managed to quieten the persistent nagging demands. The next day he insists that you take him to the mall and get him the toy you promised. And only then do you realize that you don’t have time for it, the toy is just too expensive or simply unnecessary. You refuse to make the purchase.’ – does this story seem familiar? Do you also find yourself failing to honor the commitments you carelessly or perhaps unwittingly made to your child? And is it okay to do so simply because he/she is just a child?

A similar story happens with punishments. You threaten the child ‘if you don’t complete your homework, no TV for you tonight”, “No more chocolates for you”. Then the child cries or makes a cute face and you give in, either with a warning to not repeat the behavior next time or to just make him stop throwing a tantrum.

What effect does Inconsistency in Disciplining have on the Child?

Inconsistency in disciplining makes the child lose trust in our word. Our promises and our threats seem empty as there is just no surety that we will actually do what we say we will. This makes us unreliable and makes it difficult for the child to take us seriously. How can he?

If you don’t do what you say, how is your child expected to do what you say?

The most important factor in ensuring the success of behavior modification and a general thumb rule in dealing with children is “CONSISTENCY”. First and foremost we need to learn to listen to ourselves and only then can we teach the children to listen to us.

What makes Consistency in Disciplining Important?

Consistency is following through on your word – be it a reward or punishment, every single time, without exceptions or excuses. It provides structure and security to the child as he knows for sure what is or is not going to happen. It also helps him to understand the cause-effect relationships in life, which then teaches responsibility and accountability. It builds trust and reliability. As the child understands that rules will be applied firmly and he can’t get his way around it, it will minimize arguments and tantrums and allow for more discipline. As the child sees the rewards coming with equal consistency and surety, it will also enhance cooperation.

Consistency of behavior is one of the most important virtues we can develop in ourselves and promote in our children. So next time you say something, listen to yourself 🙂

Mahima Gupta

Psychologist, Inner Space, 2010-2012.

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  1. Hi Diya,

    Thank you for writing to us. We understand this can be quite tough to handle and we would be glad to help.
    We have sent you details of child counselling.

    Have a nice day!

    Warm regards,
    The Inner Space Team

  2. Respected sir/Madam,
    This is regarding my younger sister who is of 9 years old. It’s been difficult enough for my parents to control her too much aggressive behaviour. She does not pay any heed to their scolds as if she doesn’t even care. Also during some recent events she was somehow influenced by some of her mates and was introduced to certain negative thoughts.
    It’s really urgent and I would be obliged enough for your kind assistance.

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