Be Consistent: Think Like A Bouncer

Consistency is one of the most important ingredients for gaining respect and cooperation from your kids. But many parents have trouble being consistent when it comes to enforcing limits and consequences.


Sometimes it helps to think like a bouncer in my role as a parent.

Imagine a broad-shouldered, burly man standing with his muscled, tattooed arms folded across his chest in front of a roped-off entrance to the new, happening nightclub you’re dying to check out.


You know you might not be allowed in because you’re not on The List, so what do you do? You try flirting your way in: he doesn’t crack a smile. You bring him a cupcake: he nods and puts it on the barstool next to him (he doesn’t need to sit). You tell him you’ve got friends inside who are on The List, and you’re with them. If he just lets you in to find them, you’ll only be a minute…


But he’s unflappable. He doesn’t budge. He’s confident, but not arrogant. He’s clear that it’s his job to enforce the House rules, maintain order, and keep the club under control so that everyone is safe and has a good time.


After a couple of hours or a couple of nights of this, you learn: when that guy’s working the door, you don’t get in if your name’s not on The List. It’s a waste of time to even try.


On the other hand, when you show up on a different night, you find a smiling, eager-to-please, it’s-all-about-making-you-happy kind of guy “guarding” the door. Ha! You know right away that you can charm your way in, bring as many friends as you want, and maybe talk your way into a round of free drinks while you’re at it.


With no rules or exclusions, anything goes, and the night quickly gets out of control. You drink way too much, there aren’t enough cabs, and a fight breaks out just as the club is closing.


The tricky thing is, you scope the place for a couple of weeks and discover that Burly and Wimpy don’t seem to have regular schedules. When do you go? It takes too much effort to figure it out…is this whole club thing even worth it anymore?


Parents, sticking to your limits and being consistent with your kids works in much the same way.


Your goal for your family is to maintain order so that everyone is safe and has a good time. Don’t lose sight of that and get derailed by whining, negotiating, tantrums, promises, and tugs at your heartstrings. Maintaining consistency in your words and actions builds credibility and authority.


When you set a consequence, for example, and then fail to enforce it because your child whines or cries, your child learns that he can manipulate you. Yet, when you follow through on a regular basis, he learns that it’s unnecessary to test the limits, and he cooperates more often.


You’ve heard the expression, “Do as I say, not as I do” and maybe you’ve even used it. But what you say to your child should be fairly consistent with your behavior and your values. Don’t lecture your child about healthy eating and then eat crap for dinner every night. Don’t tell him you’ll take him to the park after school and then break your promise.


As your child’s greatest influence, what you say holds power, so don’t misuse it. Your child needs to be able to trust your word in order to feel safe in the world. The more inconsistent you are with your words and actions, the more likely your child is to eventually tune you out. He needs you to be his rock — the person he can depend on to provide stability, safety, and strength.


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Showing 4 comments
  • Kelly Pietrangeli

    Loved your bouncer / nightclub analogy! (My hubby is a DJ and we met in a nightclub, so this made me laugh outloud!)

    I’m a huge believer in consistency – ask my kids! They know No means No and don’t even bother whining or repeating as it never worked when they were toddlers so they gave up years ago.

    I know a lot of mothers struggle with consistency, but if only they realised how much easier their life would be if they didn’t cave in. It takes some steely determination in the beginning, but then it’s smooth sailing thereafter.

  • Tracy greninger

    You know I’ve never thought of parenting that way. Thanks for the new way of looking at it. Thanks!!!!

    • Pam Howard

      You’re welcome, Tracy. Glad I could put a new spin on it for you. Hope it comes in handy, too!

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