Make a Threat, Keep a Threat



I recently attended a baby shower where they passed around a book and asked us to write our best parenting advice for the mom-to-be.  Mine was simple…

“Make a Threat, Keep a Threat!”

How many times have you witnessed something like this:

You see a child misbehaving at the grocery store.  Let’s say the child is yelling and beating up on his younger brother. Mom states, “Timmy, if you do not stop hitting your brother, I am putting back those popsicles you picked out.”

Timmy does not even bother to look at his mother, much less stop hitting his brother.

“Timmy, I told you to stop it, or I am putting back those popsicles!”

Timmy may look up this time but continues his antics.

After a few more minutes of Timmy torturing his brother, the mom stops the grocery cart, looks Timmy straight in the eyes and yells, “That is enough, Timmy! If I have to yell at you once more, we are turning around and putting those popsicles back in the freezer!”

This time Timmy not only turns right back around to torment his brother but smiles while he is doing so.

At this point, if you are like me, you want to turn to the mom and yell, “Put the freaking popsicles back in the freezer!!!!”

Is it just me, or do you clearly see the problem here?  Timmy is never going to stop hitting his brother because he knows he will never have a consequence for doing so. Of course, it is easy to see the problem when you are watching from afar, but when you are in that situation it is quite different!   Sometimes I will say or threaten anything just to get my kids to stop their bad behavior.

The bottom line is that you can’t always stop your kid from misbehaving, but you can certainly give them a consequence which will, in turn, stop the behavior or possibly prevent it the next time. I know all too well that this is tough to do. I often have a hard time sticking to my guns when I make a threat, but I figured this post today could be a good reminder for all of us.

I remember one summer day when my kids were younger. We were at the swim club trying to enjoy a beautiful afternoon. The pool was not very crowded, so every time my kids spoke, it seemed to amplify around the pool. They began arguing, and I reprimanded them and asked them to stop. They argued again, and I said, “Kids, if you continue to argue we are leaving the pool.” Then I thought to myself, “Crap. I don’t want to leave the pool. Our friends are coming any minute. If we leave, what the heck are we going to do for the rest of the afternoon?”

But then…you guessed it; they started arguing again. I promptly stood up and started packing up our things. The kids took note and started to cry. “Mom, we promise we will stop!  Mom, please! Please let us stay! We’re sorry!”

At this moment our friends walked in, and I had to sadly report that we were leaving. I was not going to budge. Both kids cried the whole way home, and it was a quiet afternoon at the Hoeing household. Was my day ruined? Yeah, pretty much. I never should have made the threat if I didn’t want to leave. But once I made it, I kept it. Did my kids fight again at the pool that summer? Of course, they did! But when I gave them the warning, they stopped. All they needed was the reminder of what happened the last time.

So there it is, a gentle reminder from a not-so-perfect-my-kids-can-be-bratty-too mom.

 


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