What Are the Effects of Inconsistency in the Home Environment on Kids?
Parents aren't superheroes, so they can't be expected to make perfect decisions or handle every situation without conflict. That's not real life. However, the more parents can provide consistency in the home, the more their toddler or preschooler will understand what's expected. Otherwise, the child might feel frustrated, wondering if he's making his parents happy. Honesty, fairness, sincerity, love and consistent discipline make it easier for a child to learn basic life skills.
Toddlers and preschoolers won't thrive in an unstable home environment. Inconsistent parenting causes toddlers and preschoolers to feel insecure about their surroundings, wondering if their parents will really be there when they need them. According to the University of Alabama's Parenting Assistance Line, consistency gives a child a sense of security that she can rely on her parents to meet her basic needs. This sense of security helps young children bond with their parents. Without stability at home, a child might feel lonely, isolated, abandoned or insecure and will likely develop low self-esteem.
An inconsistent home environment is a breeding ground for disobedience. Without exposure to consistent parenting techniques and a stable home life, young children often act out. According to the Child Welfare League of America, inconsistent parenting hinders a child's independence and proper decision-making abilities. Toddlers and preschoolers need parents to set boundaries, enforce proper conduct, model appropriate behavior and encourage problem-solving skills. Without those principles in force, a child's behavior will likely be erratic, confrontational and disrespectful.
Children who live in an unstable home often feel frustrated, angry and confused. Toddlers and preschoolers are too young to decipher mixed messages and can't make sense of parental inconsistencies. For example, a toddler who is punished for accidentally spilling his milk but is allowed to hit his sister can't develop a proper understanding of right and wrong. He will likely feel conflicted and frustrated with his parents and his own behavior -- his conscience and his parental reinforcements won't match up. Sometimes, youngsters will even lash out with aggressive behavior when they have a skewed view of parental authority and their home life is full of inconsistencies.
Inconsistency in the home leads to inconsistent behavior from young children, both inside and outside the home. Children often repeat what they see and hear, so they'll likely model the same inconsistent behavior. For example, if a child is punished for forgetting to clean up his toys one day but the next day his parents clean his room for him, he might not respond to future instructions. When his preschool teacher asks him to clean up his art supplies, he might ignore her, assuming she'll eventually clean them up for him. Young children are products of their environment.
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