Boundaries #3 – Consistency

Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (February 28, 2014)


This series is on the theme of boundaries with children. In the same way that sports can only be played with boundaries of a court and rules of the game, children can only grow with boundaries to help them know what they should do and what they shouldn’t. Children without boundaries often end up seeming spoilt and wanting their way. In look at boundaries, I have introduced the 5Cs of effective boundaries:


  1. Clarity – boundaries have to be clearly defined

  2. Consistency – boundaries have to be consistently implemented

  3. Consequences – consequences have to be given if boundaries are broken

  4. Cooperation – different parties within the household have to cooperate to implement boundaries

  5. Change – there is a need to change boundaries with time according to what is developmentally appropriate

We already looked at how it’s important to have clarity in giving boundaries. If expectations are not clearly defined and explained, it is difficult to understand and implement. For example, the boundary ‘sleep early’ isn’t clear but ‘sleep at 8pm’ is clear.


In this edition, I look at the importance of CONSISTENCY in giving boundaries. Having consistency really means staying the same. This rule for implementing boundaries is especially essential with young children. Toddlers and young children really need routine to feel secure and stable. For example, changing a toddler’s sleep schedule really affects the child’s emotions and rhythm – just ask any mom who’s had to travel with a child to another country with another time zone! Young children need patterns and routines to help them feel safe and that is also true when giving them boundaries.


Let’s give an example. Brian is 5 years old and he is told that he has to pack his own schoolbag before going to bed at night. Imagine on Monday he is told to pack it then on Tuesday he’s asked to sleep earlier, on Wednesday he’s asked to pack it the next morning and on Thursdays he’s asked to pack it himself before bedtime again. Poor Brian won’t know when he needs to pack it and what is expected of him. Worse still is if he gets punished for not packing one night – he probably didn’t know he had to!


I often meet parents who complain that their children are not responsible and don’t do what they’re told to. What I ask is whether the expectations and rules have been clearly defined and consistently implemented. Without clarity and consistency, it’s difficult to know what to do. Imagine a boss at work telling you to ‘give him a detailed report quickly’ – but you don’t know what kind of detail he is looking for and when the deadline is, it’s hard to do what’s right.


To be honest, consistency in giving boundaries isn’t something I’m very good at. For some of our classes with older students, we ask students to bring their weekly journal for us to see. When students come into class and tell me they forgot to bring their book, I often led it slide choosing to focus on other important things in the lesson. In those cases, I felt like I had other things to focus on. But what I realized was that the students in my class stopped bringing this weekly journal in all together because I wasn’t consistently checking! Students in other classes who had teachers that consistently asked for the journal have religiously been bringing their journals to class. I realized that I couldn’t reprimand my students for not doing what I had told them when I wasn’t consistent in what I was expecting from them.


That’s not to say that we have to be rigid and uncompromising. It’s one thing to be consistent but it’s another to be unreasonably rigid. For example, a boundary that might be set is that your child has to say hi to people with a smile, give eye contact and say ‘hello’. But imagine your child is sick one day or slept very late the night before, it’s ok that they don’t say hello with all those elements. So in the limits of boundaries, there is grace and understanding.


Let’s help our children grow to be responsible and reliable adults by giving them clear and consistent boundaries to grow with!



#Respect #boundaries #consistency #5Cs #young_children #routine #stable #safe #limits

界線(三)──一致性


這數星期,我們集中探討給予兒童的界線。一如體育活動只能在有規則和場地界線的情況下進行,小朋友的成長也需要界線來學習甚麼是應做和不應做的事;缺乏界線的孩子最終大多會變得嬌生慣養,想怎樣就怎樣。早前我為大家介紹了建立有效界線的「5C」:


  1. 清晰(Clarity)──界線必須訂立清晰

  2. 一致性(Consistency)──必須貫徹執行所訂立的界線

  3. 後果(Consequences)──越界後必須施予相應的後果

  4. 合作(Cooperation)──家庭成員應通力合作來實踐這些界線

  5. 改變(Change)──有些界線應隨着時間按發展所需而改變

上星期分享了給予清晰界線的重要性,如果你期望孩子做到一些事情,但沒有明確地界定和解釋,他們很難理解和實行。例如「早點睡覺」便不及「8點前要睡覺」清晰。


這星期,我將於大家分享「一致性」在訂立界線時有多重要。恰如其詞,「一致性」即是要保持一致、貫徹始終,這項守則在較年幼的孩子身上尤為必要。嬰幼兒在習慣的規律下才會感到安穩,例如改變寶寶的作息時間將會明顯地影響其情緒和節奏──試試詢問任何一位需要帶寶寶到另一時區外遊的母親吧!幼兒也需要習慣的模式和規律以得到安全感,在給予他們界線時亦然。


試想像5歲的Brian知道每晚都要收拾書包才能睡覺。星期一時,父母提醒他收拾書包;到星期二晚,父母着他早點睡覺;星期三,父母讓他翌晨睡醒才收拾;星期四,父母又再着他睡前要自己收拾書包。可憐的Brian分不清究竟何時需要收拾書包,也不明白父母的期望。更差的是,假如有一晚他因為沒收拾書包而被懲罰,他根本不知道自己要這樣做!


我常常遇到家長投訴自己的孩子不負責任和不聽指示做事,我反問他們有沒有清楚解釋這些規則和期望,而且貫徹地實行。缺乏清晰和一致性的界線令人無所適從。想像你的老闆着你盡快做好一份詳細的報告,但你不清楚老闆要求的「詳細」有多詳細和最後限期是何時,很難才能合乎其心意。


老實說,給予一致界線是我不太擅長的事。有些較高年級學生的課堂,我們要求他們攜帶周記回來。上課時,有學生告訴我忘記了帶回來,我往往都放過他們。這些時候,我總覺得有更重要的事在面前,但後來我發現班中全部學生都不帶周記回來了,就因為我沒有貫徹地檢查!其他班別的導師恆常地檢查,他們的學生每星期都自動自覺地帶周記回來。我明白自己不能因為他們沒帶周記而訓斥他們,因為我沒貫徹對他們的期望。


保持一致性與不合理的強硬不同,並不代表我們要變得僵化和不妥協。例如你教導孩子要對人說「你好」和微笑,也要有眼神接觸,但當孩子生病或缺乏充足睡眠時,他們不打招呼也可以接受。在界線的範圍內,存在着寬恕和諒解。透過給予明確而一致的界線,讓我們幫助孩子成為負責任和可靠的成年人吧!

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