It doesn’t seem to matter if your kids are 2 or 12 or 17 and 3/4. All kids know exactly how to push buttons and they are completely ok with pressing every one of them (as if it were their full time job). Sometimes, it feels like my buttons are big and red and say “PRESS ME NOW.” The thing is, when kids are misbehaving, you can’t ignore it and you can’t dismiss it (even if you’re tired, at the end of your rope, or are on your last button). You know you have to dole out some sort of consequence, but wow, parenting is exhausting.
It’s when they’ve worn you out the most that you have to be committed to following through.
If you tell your that Action A will lead to Consequence B and Action A has been set in motion, you have two choices: You give the kid the promised consequence, or you don’t. If you do, your child learns that every choice has a consequence and that the boundaries you promise exist really do.
If you don’t, chaos ensues.
No, really. Maybe not all at once. But if your kids learn that their bad choices or poor behaviors don’t have the consequences they thought (and they will test) then they’ll assume that you’ve lost control, that they are in control, and that they can get away with that behavior and more.
It multiplies exponentially, too, so that if you aren’t following through when your kids are young, it will be even harder to regain control when they get older. Many parents make the mistake of threatening with something that they either can’t deliver or don’t feel comfortable doing, so keeping your consequences enforceable helps.
Our son would occasionally throw a very embarrassing and loud temper tantrum in restaurants. The first time it happened, we were embarrassed but tried to quickl quiet him. The next time we went out, we told him before we ever got out of the car that if he didn’t behave, we would leave. We didn’t even get a chance to finish reading the menu and he was throwing a tantrum. Dave and looked at each other and made a critical choice that has paid off since: we took him out of the high chair, thanked the waitress, left her a tip anyway, and walked out.
DId it suck that the one time we finally managed to have money, time, and energy to go to a restaurant we’d been dying to try that we couldn’t stay? Oh yeah. Would it have sucked more if we’d have coddled our son through his tantrum and not followed through on our consequence? I’m certain of it.
As much as it sucks being the bad guy, sometimes you have to. Kids need boundaries. It’s not always pleasant but it’s better than the disrespect you’ll earn later.
Disclaimer: the son mentioned above is child #4. We had a lot of practice getting here and still aren’t perfect at it. But we keep trying!
How do you handle these kind of discpline issues with your kids?