I am not an expert, doctor of children behavior, or hold a fancy title to qualify me to talk on this topic. I am just a mom trying to do her best and raise her children to be good humans. Before I dive into this topic, I wanted to go back to one of my first posts. Judgement - This topic can be where many parents "judge" one another. This post is not meant to judge or throw blame, it is meant to give you another tool in your toolbox to attack parenthood. Side Note: You and your spouse must be in sync with follow-through. One can be better at it but you need to be a team; otherwise, you are spinning your wheels.
My husband and I get the comments, "My kids would throw a total fit if I took that away. Or, it would never be that easy for me to get my kid to leave a party. Or, how did you get your kid to do that?" Most of the time, our kids listen to us. Is it perfect? Absolutely not, but when it matters, it works.
How? Here are three main points that I go through to get the job done:
- Know my plan
- Follow through
PLAN. I use the word threaten but don't want that to sound harsh. But what are you going to take away? What is the consequence you are giving your child? The "threat" is important when you get to the follow through step. You have to think before you speak, which can be soooooo hard while you are pissed. But it gets easier the more you do it. Pick something that you know you can follow through to the end. If you have to go to Aunt Sally's for dinner, don't threaten "Johnny if you don't get out of the pool, you won't go to Aunt Sally's tonight." Yes he will, so don't say it. Find something meaningful for him that is relevant at the given moment. Take away his favorite toy or TV show. Note: The younger the child, the more immediate the consequence needs to be. A 3-year-old won't remember in 3 hours why you are taking his show away, but a 9-year-old will.
For the younger kids it will have a more physical (not in a spanking kind of way) but in a physical removal from the pool, play area, park, Target, etc. I have threatened to come into the pool if they didn't get out. Sure enough, they didn't listen and I walked into the pool to get the kid. And then we walked straight out of the pool area. It only happened once and when you follow through with your "threat" usually you only need to do it once or twice to that extreme. (Yes, I did have my swimsuit on, but I was dry and I knew that if push came to shove, I could and would get in.) I only said, "I would come in to get them," because I knew I could and would.
So plan, you have too. Think about what you are going to "threaten" your child with; no toy, video game, lovie, TV, whatever. But make darn sure you can follow through with whatever it is. Choose wisely.
1,2,3. The use of counting 1,2,3 is a pretty standard form of discipline. Give the kids three chances to do what you ask. Wait a few seconds before you move to the next number, say what you are asking again, and state what will happen if the kid does not do what you are asking. But get ready because when three comes, you need to be prepared for action. Side Note: When we are leaving a party, pool, or event I always give my kids a 10 and then 5 minute warning. Then when its time to go, it is not out of the blue. A child under three years old does not understand time like this, but you can still warn them that it is time to leave soon.
FOLLOW THROUGH. I believe one of the most important, yet hands down hardest parenting tip is following through. Kids are smart, way smarter than we give them credit for and not in the 2+2 kind of way. I am talking nonverbal, emotional, reward/punishment type of way. So when you threaten "Johnny if you don't stop XZY I am going to ABC..." and then do nothing time and time again, Johnny is going to tune you out because there were no repercussions to your words. But when you follow through, they know by the end of your 1, 2, 3, you are taking the toy away and it is not going to be pretty. They take you seriously because punishment is on the other side of 3 instead of nothing.
When you start this, it can suck. Like really hard, so embarrassing, feel like a total failure type of hard. If you read my Tuesday Tip on Instagram a bit ago, this is what I mean about being a mom is easy, being a parent is hard. You have to follow through to the end. If you don't want to fight, 100% ok, then don't threaten. Pick your battles wisely; don't start down this road if you don't have the energy, time, whatever to finish the job. There are many times I don't feel up for the fight and therefore don't engage. You have to be conscientious of your situation. Do you have time? Can you finish this out? What is your threat going to be and is that realistic? It takes tons of work in the beginning. After a while it will get easier and the kids will listen. You won't have to threaten as much. The 1,2,3 works and people will start to ask you, "how did you get your kid to do that?"
I will leave you with one story my family laughs about now. The short version - It was dinner time, and my oldest was being a whinny B. She was picking at her food with her fingers and not eating anything on her plate and I knew she would like the food. So I said, "Margot, you have to try just one bite of the food before you can leave the table." She dug in hard and refused. Well, needless to say, my husband handled the other kids, cleaned the kitchen, and even brought me my computer to the dinner table. The two of us sat at that dinner table for a good hour. Her food was gross, cold, and nasty by the time she took the most minuscule bite. But she took it, swallowed, cleaned her dish, and went right up to her room while giving me devil eyes the whole time. But now when I ask her to take a bite of something new, I still get the devil eyes, but she takes her bite and moves on. Side Note: The other kids were watching and learning, which is a good thing.
If you have enjoyed reading this post or any of The Finney 411 blog posts, please share the love. Tell your friends, share your favorite blog post via Facebook or Instagram. Never miss a post by Signing up for my mailing list and follow me on Instagram @thefinney411 for even more fantastic content. Remember, you are perfectly imperfect in every way!