C Stands for… Consistency

To do nearly anything consistently – let alone parenting – is a challenge and difficult gig indeed! Particularly so when our kids hit adolescence and the household rides unpredictable waves of emotion.

It’s very logical to expect our teens to be much more self-sufficient than our toddlers, and with their push for freedom and independence, it’s easy to momentarily forget there is a part of them still very reliant upon boundaries and predictability.

They need your consistency more so than ever, as they dip their toe into the waters of ‘the big, wide world’ a place which is unpredictable at best.

By their very nature, teens are programmed to seek independence and in doing so become highly skilled at pushing boundaries and your buttons.

It’s easy to be worn down by an adolescent’s persistent protests and arguing … parents are only human, after all.

This, though, is part of the teen game plan.

Teens will quite often bank on their parents backing down from conflict as a strategy to advance their own interest. They expect parental opposition to a point and then will test some more until they determine the point of no resistance.

Their doing this is a very normal part of their emotional development, but as they are not yet adults – cognitively or emotionally – consistent boundaries are still essential to guide them safely through this stage.

WHY parents of teens need to be consistent:

Consistency and certainty is how our kids learn to predict outcomes in a range of situations. This is closely linked to decision making, as kids often make choices after giving consideration to what would be the likely outcome, based upon their past experiences. It’s known teens, especially boys, can struggle with making safe decisions and are often influenced to act spontaneously and so consistency provides the platform for better decision-making capabilities.

Other benefits of consistency include:

  • Routine – which can reduce the opportunity for back answering and argument when kids know what the expectations are.
  • Security – knowing what to expect from you and your parenting will give your teen a sense of safety and security in their world which is at times unpredictable.
  • Relationship building – consistency will contribute to a trusting relationship between you and your teen.

WAYS you can demonstrate consistency:

Consistency in parenting is not just about setting household rules, it’s actually a far broader concept. More than anything it means habitually doing as you say you will – predictably each time.

Here are some ways that consistency can be embedded into the relationship with your teen:

  • Expectations – define your standards, communicate these with your teen and determine logical consequences to ensure follow through.
  • Procedures – closely linked to expectations, have routines that are predictable – not so many that your teen feels restricted, but around the issues that are important to you.
  • Communicate consistently – be predictable in your manner and this means practicing keeping your cool.
  • Be true to your word and model consistency by doing as you say.

HOW you can regain consistency

Regaining consistency is difficult but not impossible. If you have previously allowed inconsistencies into your household and now decide they are no longer working for you and your teen … don’t panic, there is the capacity to change this.

I’ll predict it won’t be easy and you should be prepared for some possible backlash and door slamming along the way. It can be done however, and the best approach is to just batten down the hatches and ride through the resistance.

The most successful way to re-introduce consistency is by doing and demonstrating … not discussing at length and forewarning. Holding a family meeting to announce a whole package of new rules and routines can be an invitation to failure if you don’t follow through.

My advice? Just jump straight in…

  1. Decide what your big issues are – think about what’s crucial to the happiness and well being of you and your family and what can be overlooked for now.
  2. Devise some simple and concrete guidelines – name the behaviours and actions are you wanting to see.
  3. Make a list of these desired behaviours and your intended logical consequences.
  4. Review and read this list daily until you are living them.
  5. Clearly communicate these expectations to all family members, practice and implement, without fail, until they are routine.

How do you know what you should be most consistent about?

There is no right or wrong, good or bad in choosing what to be consistent about. Each family and household has unique circumstances and you know your situation and your teen better than anyone else.

It is true to say, however, that parenting a teen presents challenges that aren’t encountered when raising younger children. So when it comes to setting some boundaries for your teen, these may be areas of consideration. Remember, nothing here is prescriptive and I’m not parent-shaming anybody.

There’s no right or wrong, but I’d begin with some of these…

  • School night bed time
  • Weekend night curfew
  • Mobile phone use
  • Expectations around school performance and attendance
  • Use of social media sites
  • Engagement with rest of family
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Personal relationships
  • Piercings, tattoos etc.

The key message is … just do it AND follow through

Worksheet Download


Your CRASH Journaling prompts for this module…

  • What aspect/s of parenting your teen are you consistent about?
  • What aspects of parenting your teen would you like to be more consistent with?
  • Describe a time you let your guard down and wasn’t consistent?
  • What was the outcome of this? How did it work for you and your teen?
  • What would you like to do differently should a similar situation arise?

Just to recap

What does parenting with consistency look like?

To be a consistent parent means displaying the traits of dependency and reliability.

And while yes, your teen is bursting at the seams to exert their growing independence, they actually require consistent guidelines and boundaries more often than many parents realise.

Being reliable means your teen knows they can count on you. They’ll have confidence in what they can expect from and it’s so important for them to believe you’ll be there even when they begin to push the limits. And they will!

Dependency means being stable and responsible and kids – ah-ha, even teens – actually draw lots of comfort from this.

Reliability, dependency and consistently applied expectations lead to teens trusting they can take you at your word and that you’ll be clear, firm and fair in your expectations.

Naturally, they’ll still make attempts to break or bend the rules (it’s in their blood!) but when you’re consistent they’ll believe you mean what you say and will react as you’ve done previously. 

Lots of parents hate saying ‘no’ to their kids and it’s here consistency is most at risk. Saying ‘no’ and then being consistent means sticking to it… and then not backing down on the issue later.

When dealing with teens, it’s A-ok age-appropriate to work with them on setting guidelines that everyone agrees will be applied consistently. 

It may not be easy to reign in consistency if things have been a little chaotic in the past, but with concentrated effort it’ll be well worth it.

Why does your teen need you to be consistent?

It doesn’t need much imagination to realise how confusing it can be for teens if parents are continually moving the goalposts. Consistency in dealing with your teen is needed so…
  • they don’t see changing rules as a justification for pushing the boundaries and risk taking behaviours
  • they don’t try to play parents or family members off against one another in an attempt to get their own way
  • it’s felt they can seek guidance and nurturing when needed
  • there’s a reduced chance of social, behavioural and emotional issues
  • you aren’t left questioning your parenting decisions (which in turn can make following through with rules more difficult)

How you can bring more consistency to parenting your teen..

Putting consistency into practice needs to begin with a solid plan. Your teen will encounter a range issues during their adolescent journey and so being prepared is key.

Here are some tips for injecting consistency into dealing with your teen:

  • clearly defining your stance on an issue
  • determine clear consequences for when expectations aren’t met and how will these be communicated ahead of time?
  • will compliance and/or good behaviour be rewarded? If so, how?
  • is this issue one you’ll be unbudgable on… or could there be a degree of flexibility?
  • is one parent or the other responsible for dealing with this issue or will it always be a consolidated approach?
  • are there any potential roadblocks which can predicted?

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