Problems arise when we are inconsistent in our expectations and/or discipline. First lets look at the expectations. If I expect my 6 year old to sit at the table and eat with her fork and spoon like a human being and then let my 10 year old eat spaghetti with his hands or stick his face down in the plate like a dog and don’t say anything about it my 6 year old may be frustrated that the same rules that apply to her don’t apply to him. That doesn’t mean that we can’t be flexible or even change the expectations at some point. In fact, the expectations certainly should change as they grow up. We don’t and shouldn’t expect the same abilities from a 2 year old that we do from a 10 year old, but we should expect both to obey what they understand and have been trained to do, when they are commanded to do it. This inconsistency can also be a problem for the older children when they were not allowed to do something until they were 14 and then the little sibling is allowed to do it at 10. There can definitely be some resentment about why they didn’t "have to wait like I did."
The second part of the problem is in discipline. If 5 days ago my son calls me ‘fatso’ and I laugh about it, then 4 days ago he does it again and I spank him, then 3 days ago he repeats it and I call him names back, then 2 days ago he says it yet again and I ignore it, then yesterday he says it and I sit him down and talk to him about his feeling, my feelings, and how it is unkind to call him names, then today he does it and I put him in "time-out"; what can he expect the next time? Your guess is as good mine. This may seem a little absurd, but similar things happen every day all over this country and perhaps in your house as well. Certainly, the above is not an actual course of events, but it shows the problem of inconsistency. That doesn’t mean that we should always punish an action in exactly the same way, but the punishment should fit the crime and if there is any variation it is that there is an escalation of the severity of the punishment with repeat offenses. (Remember we have already discussed in former posts the importance of making the rules clear and understandable, as well as warning the child of what punishment will occur and carrying it out as warned.) If a child does what he shouldn’t, but didn’t know before then give him a warning and explain why it shouldn’t be done and what the consequences are the next time. If there is a next time carry out the punishment as warned remind him of the last time and why you are disciplining this time, then set a more severe punishment for the next time. Remember that the punishment must be something that will hurt (physically, emotionally, mentally) without harming(no permanent damage is caused). For me to tell my son that he can’t play Barbie dolls with his sister wouldn’t be a good punishment, because he doesn’t want to anyway. That would punish her rather than him. For me to tell him that he can’t play with his legos or read his favorite book series would hurt him, but of course not harm him. In fact, maybe I could make him play dolls with his sister without complaining. That would punish him and bless her at the same time.
We usually make poor and inconsistent disciplining decisions when we do it in the heat of the moment. Our anger and frustration come out and we say ridiculous things like, "You won’t leave this house till you are 30!" or "I wish you had never been born!" or "I’ll beat you black and blue if you do that again!" (Unfortunately, some carry out on that one.) Those are the kind of things that cause real harm to children, but loving discipline (including physical punishment properly administered, on the bottom with love and not in anger) will help rather than harm in the long run. Proverbs 19:18 "Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying." Proverbs 23:13-14 "Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. (14) Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell." Do we believe God or not? Leaving a child unpunished for wrongs will warp his soul and bring him to eternal suffering, better a little pain now to avoid that.