Why it’s important to have low parenting tolerances
Understanding your own tolerance level can help you work towards maintaining consistent parenting techniques. Tolerance is your ability or willingness to tolerate certain behaviors that you do not necessarily agree with. A tolerance level lies on a continuum from high tolerance to low tolerance, with high tolerance meaning that you tolerate more of the behavior you don’t like and low tolerance that you tolerate less of that behavior. Each parent is on a different point of this continuum, however, it is best to be on the lower end when establishing family rules and enforcing consequences. Low parenting tolerances will encourage better behavior from your children.
One reason it’s important to have low parenting tolerances is because your child will test the boundaries less. An example of this is the common, count to 3 parenting method. If your child is misbehaving you tell them not to do that behavior anymore and then say, “1….2….2½ ….”. You know how it goes, your child continues to misbehave until you get to 3. However, if you consistently give one if/then statement and then enforce a consequence immediately, your child will know exactly where the line is and they won’t go any further. Your child will learn how long they can continue a negative behavior depending on your tolerance level. As your child grows and has independence to make decisions with greater consequences, your child will be more likely to stay away from bigger, more harmful behaviors because they have learned they will receive a consequence for even small negative behaviors. For example, if you don’t allow hitting, then they won’t get to the point of punching walls and throwing large objects because they learn to control their anger before they become overly aggressive.
Maintaining low tolerances will help your child behave in ways that are socially acceptable outside the home. The only way children know what is expected outside the home is by what you teach and enforce inside the home. You wouldn’t want your kids to jump on a neighbor’s couch or swear at their teacher, so don’t allow this at home. When you allow your child to continue participating in inappropriate behavior because you don’t want to make them mad or you don’t want to give a consequence then they will struggle behaving appropriately with other authority figures as well. Your child needs to be able to generalize socially acceptable skills at school, when they play with friends, and when in public.
Your child won’t need as many rules when you tolerate only small negative behaviors. It may seem counterintuitive that giving consequences for small behaviors creates fewer rules, but that’s exactly what it does. If they know they will not get away with small negative behaviors then they won’t try large negative behaviors, which reduces the amount of rules you will have. You will be able to set basic rules for behavior and will rarely need to address all the other large behaviors that come from testing boundaries.
As mentioned briefly above, your children will be more likely to stay away from large inappropriate behaviors when you parent with lower tolerances. One important aspect of giving consequences is making sure the degree of the consequence matches the degree of the behavior. If you are addressing small negative behaviors, such as calming your voice versus throwing objects, then the consequences you give will be smaller as well. If addressing small behaviors is new for you, then you may initially see an increase in consequences, however, this will give more opportunity to teach and role-play the behaviors you expect. (If this happens, make sure to increase the amount of praise and positive rewards you give as well, or the correcting will not be effective.) Shaping behavior can be a lot of work at the beginning, but the work you put in now will decrease the time spent addressing behaviors later. Your children will also learn how to be self-disciplined and be able to make positive decisions when you are not around.
How to have low parenting tolerances
1. Be on the same page as other parental figures
It is difficult to maintain low parenting tolerances when there is another parent or authority figure that is giving into your child or letting negative behaviors go unaddressed. Talk alone with the other parent/adult and discuss together what behaviors you will and will not tolerate. Deciding the tolerance levels ahead of time will decrease family problems when addressing a negative behavior in the moment.
2. Be proactive
Work towards preventing negative behaviors before they happen, using the skill of Preventive Teaching (LINK). This skill sets up success for kids because they know how to respond appropriately when difficult situations arise. Hold regular family meetings where you can clarify expectations and establish family rules and consequences so your children know what your tolerances are.
3. Don’t give in when your child challenges consequences
If you tend to give in to your child when they argue or become angry about receiving a consequence, then written rules and contracts can help. This includes your child in the decision making process and the consequences will seem objective in the moment. Giving into your child puts you back on the higher tolerance level. Even though you addressed the negative behavior, if your child knows they can talk you out of the consequence, then you’re showing that you’ll tolerate more negative behaviors than you want.
4. Use the skill of Correcting Behaviors
Correcting behaviors provides a step-by-step process for addressing small negative behaviors consistently. This will give you confidence in correcting negative behaviors and allow your child an opportunity to practice the correct way to behave, both which will help your child behave better.
Learn how to use Correcting Behavior in your life by visiting the Correcting Behaviors skill page.