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Both as a responsible parent and as a Jew, I want to be consistent with my children. As a parent, in order to teach them that the rules are the rules and give them a sense of predictability to rely on. As a Jew, in order that they have respect for me and my rules and don't see their father, who is their model of relationship with Hashem, as being arbitrary.

However, at the same time, I want them to learn that there is such a thing as forgiveness and rectification. I want them to know and see that they can fix what they have done wrong.

I understand that this is not a contradiction, and someone mature will understand that you are not supposed to break the rules, but if you do and you regret it you can make up for it. However, my children (and I assume most normal children) assume that if they will always get a second chance, then there is no need to worry about the first chance.

Is there a way to be consistent and steadfast to the rules, but still teach a child that he can make up for his mistakes? And if not, what takes precedence?

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I can speak only from the "having been a child" perspective, but consider that consequences are not the same thing as punishment. Teshuva involves dealing with the consequences; it's not like in some other religions where an "I'm sorry" wipes the slate clean. So he has to (e.g.) clean up the mess he made either way, but regret can mitigate the early bedtime that follows (or whatever your punishment is). – Monica Cellio Feb 26 '14 at 1:55

Whenever I deliver any sort of judgement on my kids, I always try to explain how I am thinking and the different considerations I am making, including whatever leniency might be applicable. Basically, I talk UP to my kids, rather than DOWN to them, even if they might not understand what I am saying in depth.

In this way I try to get across the klallim (rules) of proper behaviour as well as the prattim (particular details) that may create exceptional circumstances or otherwise modify the general principles.

They usually take the opportunity to argue their case, which as far as I understand the mitzvah of honouring your parents is not correct for a child to do to a parent, strictly speaking, but they still understand that I make the decisions.

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