The Psychology of Everyday Life:Love, Marriage, and the Baby Carriage


How important is consistency in parenting?

Maintaining a consistent stance toward children is a challenging task for many parents. It is often hard for parents to hold firm to a decision about what is and is not allowed rather than bend to the pressures of the moment. This can be highly problematic as children need very clear messages about what the rules are and where the boundaries lie. Moreover, inconsistent enforcement of rules creates its own complications. According to the theory of behaviorism, intermittent reinforcement makes behavior more resistant to extinction. To illustrate, let’s imagine that a child is demanding a certain privilege to which the parent initially says “no.” If the parent ultimately gives in to the child’s demands, the child learns that “no” does not mean “no” and that parents can be manipulated. When the child next encounters the word “no,” the automatic response will be to ramp up his or her demands in the expectation that the parent will eventually give in.


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