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Nick Gentile, MA, LPC
Consistency In Parenting
Potomac Psychological Center, LLC

Consistency In Parenting

In private practice, therapists have worked with many families struggling with a child or adolescent that is exhibiting behavioral problems. Often times this means working with the parents to develop a behavior modification plan to improve their child's behavior. Over the past several years, many have found the most important factor to behavior modification is consistency. Unfortunately, consistency is the most difficult component to maintain.

One aspect to developing a behavior modification plan includes identifying rewards and consequences which, typically, is an easy process. One of the difficult parts for most parents is giving consequences on a consistent basis for problem behaviors and rewards on a consistent basis for appropriate behaviors. Try to keep the plan simple, this will help maintain consistency.

First, identify a handful of reasonable expectations for your child (i.e., follow directions, exhibit emotions appropriately, is ready for school on time) and write them down on paper. Make the expectations as specific as possible. For example, write down what time your child should be leaving the house for school in the morning, not just “leave for school on time”. Once you have a list of four to six of the most important expectations, then identify three to five consequences.

These consequences should be something that the parent can easily control, such as access to a cell phone, television or video games. This will also help with consistency. An early bedtime is not something easily controlled by the parent and, therefore, could lead to a power struggle.

It is also recommended to utilize 24 hour consequences. This allows for the child to experience the impact of the consequence, but not become overwhelmed and defeated by a long term consequence. A 24 hour consequence provides a better chance for the child to be motivated to improve their behavior. Also, a 24 hour consequence is much easier for the parent to manage which allows for greater consistency within the plan.

Lastly, the parent should identify three to five rewards for appropriate behavior. Once the behavior plan is written down on paper, then review the plan with your child before starting the plan.

You can have the best rewards and consequences, but without consistency, the behavior modification plan will not work.

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