Constancy and Consequences

Last week we talked about children living either up or down to our expectations. But if the child doesn’t know what that expectation is, he/she cannot begin to meet it.

In dealing with our children, we need be sure that the rule is the same tomorrow as it is today. One way to take the rule out of whimsy is to make it a “house rule”.

  • In this house, we do not throw toys. We play with them quietly.
  • In this house, we put things away when we have finished using them.
  • In this house, we always wash our hands and face before coming to the table.

This makes the house the rule maker and takes personality out of the issue.

The key is saying “In this house, we…” instead of “I told you…” or “You have to…”. If you have a strong-willed child (and who doesn’t have at least one?), putting things on an “I versus you” basis is like firing the starting gun for a marathon.

Saying “we” has the psychological advantage of bringing the child into partnership with the parent. Not equal partners, I hasten to add. But partners just the same.  “Let’s clean the supper dishes quickly so we have time for….”works better that “bring the plates to the kitchen”. See the difference?  We have an activity with an attached reward (consequence) in the first instance. In the second, we simply have a chore with no consequence (either positive or negative) attached.


I can’t say it often enough. Every action carries within itself the seed of its own reward or punishment. It is the first law of physics: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

The sooner our children learn action and consequence, the better off they’ll be. It is the knowledge, wisdom, and skill that will carry them through the remainder of their lives successfully.



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