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Having certain things in your life that are predictable, that you can count on, makes your life easier, helps your children feel secure, and improves your children’s behavior.

Let’s start out with how consistency makes your life easier.  Decisions can be stressful, even if you are deciding between good things.  Even a small decision contains options that have to be considered and a choice that has to be made.  As a parent, you have to make decisions hundreds of times every day.  Being predictable or having consistency helps by reducing the number of decisions you have to make.  For example, the benefit of having Taco Tuesday or Pizza Friday every week is that you don’t have to decide what to make for dinner, and you know what needs to be on your shopping list. 

This is especially helpful if you have a busy family schedule or limited time.  Now maybe you and your family love the creativity of deciding dinner at the last minute, depending on what you are in the mood for, but having consistency can help in other areas as well.  Decide when you want to do laundry and write it on the calendar, tell your children what time their bedtime is and try to stick to it, or assign chores to family members.  When you choose these things once and make them consistent, you don’t have to make a decision each time and you save yourself the time and stress of having to figure it out.

Being predictable also helps your children feel secure.  Think about how stressful a new job might be, even if it is a really good job.  You are a new employee who wants to do a good job, may be skilled at the job, but you don’t know exactly what to expect.  You aren’t sure where things are, where you should be, or what is expected of you.  You start to feel better when you know what to expect and what you need to do.  For children, their job is to grow, learn new skills, and go to school.  When they know what is going to happen, what to expect, and what is expected of them, they can relax and do their job.  

However, when they feel like the job description is always changing, they may be able to cope, but they can not relax.  Children are strong and they need to be able to adapt to the big and small changes that just happen in life, but as a parent, we can help them to be resilient by giving them consistency where we can.  Think about what could be more predictable in your children’s lives and try to make changes there.  It could be something bigger like a consistent bedtime routine, a specific time and place to do homework, or a whiteboard with a schedule for the day?  Or it could be something that seems small, but they grow to count on, like a hug and using a special nickname when you greet them in the morning or tuck them in at night, a preferred snack after the school work is done, or a wink when they are doing the right thing. 

The last thing to consider is that being predictable CAN help your children behave better.  However, this can be tricky because being predictable can also allow your children to misbehave.  Consider the parent who says, “stop doing that, or we are going to leave right now”.  The child who knows that their parent has said that before and they have never left the party, park, or store, can predict that they can keep doing whatever undesirable behavior they have been doing, and they will still get to stay.  However, the child who KNOWS that if their parent gives them that warning, then they can expect to have to leave immediately if they don’t change their behavior, will stop what they are doing, and start to behave in a better way. 

The child who does not know whether their parent will follow through on the threat or not, will most likely play the odds and try to get away with not listening to their parent.  When your child can predict that you WILL do what you say, then they will listen to what you tell them to do.  When the child predicts that their parent will not take any consistent action when they tell them to do something, the child will do whatever they want and hope for the best.  The best thing that you can do to help your child behave the way that you want, is to tell them exactly what you expect, and make sure that they can predict what the outcome will be if they listen to you or if they choose to ignore you.  Follow through on what you say will happen, EVERY time, and you and your children will work together better.