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Parenting Tip: Make Sure Your Kids Take You SeriouslyPosted Friday, February 17, 2012, at 12:15 PM
Scenario: A mom and a toddler are at the store. He decides he wants some candy. Mom tell him no--put the candy back. He ignores her and begins to walk off away from her with the candy. She tells him to get back here right now. Then she begins to count. One. Two. Three. Mom might as well be counting to herself, because little Junior doesn't care. Mom gives up. She rushes after him and grabs his arm, hauling him back to the cart as he howls with rage. Other parents look at her with expressions ranging from pity to contempt. She feels like a lousy parent and wonders why Junior never pays attention to anything she says.
Sound familiar? If your kids haven't done this, you've probably at least seen it happen. Why is it that kids don't seem to listen to their parents these days?
Simple. Parents don't follow through on their threats. Furthermore, many of their threats they don't intend to follow through on in the first place. Have you ever threatened to take all of your children's Christmas presents back to the store if they didn't shape up? And then, if your kids didn't shape up, did you actually return said presents? Of course not. It's too much trouble, and you really didn't want to have Christmas without presents anyway. If you have ever done this or anything similar, you made a threat that you didn't intend on keeping. You hoped that the threat of the punishment alone would be enough to turn your child away from his misdeeds. Unfortunately, your child has already learned that those threats are empty. Of course Mom and Dad aren't going to bring the presents back to the store, they think. And they are right. Your kids aren't stupid.
Problem is, children soon begin to take all of Mom and Dad's threats lightly. They have learned that they aren't to be taken seriously, and then the parents can't figure out why little Jr. won't listen to them anymore.
Although this problem is easier to prevent than to cure, I have good news. It can be reversed. From now on, as a parent, don't ever make a threat that you don't fully intend to carry out. Think hard before you speak. The other day I heard a mother tell her children that if they didn't stop touching things in the store she would chop their hands off. That's just silly. She's not going to chop their hands off and the kids know it. She should have stopped and thought about what she would have actually been willing to do if her kids couldn't keep their hands off the merchandise. Could she put the kiddos in the grocery cart? Make them put their hands on the tops of their heads through the rest of the shopping trip? Not let them have any candy? Then, once she'd decided on a reasonable threat, then she should stick to it and not back down. If she had said they can't have candy, she shouldn't change her mind in three minutes when they looked at her with those big, sad puppy-dog eyes.
It's a simple as that. It might be hard at first for the kids who aren't used to taking their parents seriously, but they will get used to it. Parents who have a history of making idle threats should sit down with them and explain that things will be different from now on.
A word of caution--if you accidentally slip and make a really stupid idle threat that you aren't going to carry out, it's okay to apologize to your kids and explain that you messed up. Tell them that you shouldn't have said that you would throw their iPod in the trash if they didn't do their schoolwork. Explain that you didn't mean it and that you spoke too quickly. Then explain to them what you will do instead (such as ground them from using it for the rest of the week). Then follow through. Apologizing to your children when you are in the wrong does not make you a bad parent--just a human one. Whatever you do, do not follow through on a threat you shouldn't have made in the first place just to keep from having to own up to your mistake.
Going back to my original scenario, I want to add that counting to five or ten simply doesn't work. That only gives kids five or ten more seconds of a free pass to disobey you. The mother in my opening paragraph didn't even give a threat--there was just an implied "or else" when she got to the end of counting. Kids know that there is no "or else" at the end anyway. I can't tell you how many parents end up buying the candy for the child just to avoid the meltdown.
As parents, we really can't expect our kids to obey us when we've in effect trained them not to. When we act like it's cute when they are babies, count to ten and do nothing when they are toddlers, and then throw out idle threats when they are older, it's no wonder so many kids are out of control by the time they are teens. Nip it in the bud now, and you will be surprised how well consistency works.
Homeschooling -- The Next Generation
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