Consistency Matters To Youth

Is consistency really that important to teens? Does consistency truly matter in raising teens? Why is it important when we work with young people? Have any of these questions gone through your mind?

These questions and more have gone through my mind as it relates to consistency. Regardless of my role with youth…a parent, small group leader, or teacher, consistency is something I strive for with them. And, working in a middle school, I see daily just how important consistency is for teens. So let’s go ahead and dive deep into consistency and look at what consistency can do for teens.

Consistency helps teens feel safe.

First and foremost, consistency helps teens feel safe. They feel more safe when they know what to expect. Additionally, when they know what to expect, their anxiety lessens.

As a caring adult, when I am consistent in what I say, what I do and what I ask of others, I am helping teens to feel safe. That alone encourages me to be intentional about being consistent.

When I sub in the classroom, regardless of which classroom I am in, teens know my expectations. They don’t change from day to day, hour to hour, or class to class. My expectations are consistent and honestly it is one of the reasons I believe students engage with me and grow a relationship with me in the school building. They know what to expect from me and that helps them to feel safe. And, if a teen has a choice about building a relationship with an adult who helps them to feel safe versus someone who does not, they are almost always going to choose safe.

Consistency grows trust.

One of my favorite things about consistency is that it grows trust. It lays a foundation for trust between a caring adult and a teenager. You might be thinking, most teens don’t trust adults. Honestly, some teens have learned to not trust. As a parent or a caring adult, you have the opportunity to work to create an environment that grows trust.

How does consistency grow trust? When teenagers experience consistency in how they are treated, valued, spoken to, looked at, talked about, and engaged, it builds a relationships based on trust. Teens come to know and expect that they can trust a caring adult when they are consistent.

The world around us is moving at an ever changing pace. Rules change. Values change. Technology has allowed change to occur within more areas of our lives and at a quicker speed. This can overwhelm and overload a teen. 

When we can create relationships and environments with consistency as a foundation, then we are nurturing trust in those places. Consistency can also have the affect of quieting the noise around us by letting us trust and lean into a relationship that encourages us to grow. All teens need this in their lives.

Consistency builds structure.

Consistency builds structure. You see, teens need to have structure in their lives. In fact, I would say all of us do.

Teens operate better when there is structure and when they know what is expected of them. This structure helps to paint a roadmap for them or at least give them a general idea of healthy, desired behaviors. Further, they can organize their thoughts around this structure which then promotes more structure.

When we talk about youth development, one of the key 12 developmental outcomes all young people need is a sense of saftey and structure. When a young person feels safe and understands the structure in their relationships and environments, it helps them to more fully understand the world around them. It even opens the door for them to begin to assess their own feelings of safety and their own needs for structure.

When a teenager is growing this outcome, you begin to see them putting structure in place for themselves. You might even notice that teens are more productive when they actually operate within a structured enviornment and relationship. When they see things shift or change things without warning, they can be quick to call out an adult for not giving them a heads up. This is healthy and this helps them to define for themselves what structure they desire. And, when they know what structure works for them, they are more likely to seek it out and build it for themselves.

Consistency gives teens more control.

Did you ever feel out of control as a teenager? Or have you ever witnessed a young person feel so lost and out of control that they are frozen, unable to move or make decisions? I have and let me tell you, it is hard to watch. No one likes to feel out of control. And, we have an opportunity to help give teens more control when we operate from a place of consistency.

You might be wondering how that is? Simply put, consistency helps to give parameters for a teen. If they know certain behaviors result in certain consequences and that will not change, then they have more control as they make decisions about their behaviors. In effect, they can weigh their risks and consequences because they have more information. If teens understand an adult’s expectations, then they have the control to choose how they respond and meet those expectations. 

Consistency actually is incredibly empowering for teenagers. It helps them to make decisions, to feel safe, to trust that what they do will have certain results. And, when teens can operate in a way that offers them control, it helps them to build confidence and self esteem as well. When a teenager feels that they have some control over what is happening around them and to them, they become more fully engaged. They even can learn to advocate for themselves in these situations.

Consistency can also teach youth about what they want in a relationship with others. If they end up hurt or don’t feel safe because there is a lack of consistency, they can compare those feelings to an environment that is safe and offers consistency. As they compare these different experiences or relationships, they can feel more in control by being able to name what is and isn’t healthy for them. And, when they can do this, it makes them more open to access resources that help them get their needs met.

Consistency says I care about you.

Consistency actually says I care about you. That may sound strange, but I firmly believe that consistency is a way for us to show up and care. It opens the door to healthier relationships, can create an environment of saftey and structure, and grow trust. 

At the end of every email I send to my community, I always close with Keep Showing Up & Keep Caring. If we do nothing else, consistently doing these 2 things will help us to grow a relationship with youth. Consistently showing up demonstrates that we care. And, being consistent in positively interacting with and engaging youth says we care as well. 

What consistency is and is not.

Now, consistency doesn’t mean rigidness. It doesn’t mean I cannot be flexible. It means I am who I am each day. When I engage with teens, I will treat them in the same way I always do. It means that I will speak in an uplifting way while also speaking truth to them. And, my consistency also means that if things change, I will communicate that with the youth in my life. That way, they know what expecations are in place and that they can still feel safe.

If we are operating from a positive youth development approach, we are intentional about what we do and say. We see the value of and possibility in youth. We consistently lead with that.

As a parent, it can be easy to think that we have to do the same thing, in the same way for each of our children. What I have learned through parenting is that each of my children have unique needs, skills and approaches to life. And, that means that sometimes, how I engage one child may have to be different for another child. This doesn’t mean I am not consistent because I am meeting each child where they are. It simply means that parenting is going to look different at times for different children. But, even then, my children can still expect me to be consistent in how I engage with them as an individual.

A Challenge For You

If you know me, you know I like structure. But, that is not why I strive to be consistent. I understand that young people need structure and they need consistency in their lives. It makes a difference in how they engage, how they develop and how they build their relationships. You, as a caring adult, have the power to meet them consistently in meaningful ways. 

I want to encourage you to do a self assessment on how you put consistency into practice. Ask yourself:

  • What things are you doing consistently with your teens?
  • Are there areas that could use a little improvement?
  • Are there areas that could use a little more flexibility?
  • How do you communicate change with your teens?

As you assess how you are doing, if you are brave enough, ask the teens in your life to give you feedback on your consistency. Yes, that can be scary, but I find it to be honest feedback that helps me to grow and engage better with youth.

As I wrap up this post, I want to invite you to pray for God to help you develop consistency as it relates to working with and raising youth.

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