Especially when your kids are toddlers, you must set rules and ensure that your kids follow them. Great parents make those rules absolutely clear, and their kids know that if they choose to stray, there will be consequences. Start when they are old enough to understand what you are saying, that’s about two years old. If you set the boundaries when they are young, it will be much easier on all of you when they get older and the consequences for their actions may be much harsher.
Don’t make idle threats and be sure to follow through on what you say to your children. “If you say you’re going to do something as a consequence, make sure you’re capable of doing it and then do it,” insists Marlene McDermott, Marriage and Family Therapist at Serenity Counseling in Palmyra, NJ..
When they are very young, start with something as simple as following through on a time-out if they misbehave. If you threaten your toddler that you will leave a store if she touches things, then when she touches something you must leave the store. As they get older, consequences may get more severe, but whatever you threaten you must follow through. For an older child, it may be that if your child comes home late, he will be grounded for two weeks. If that’s the expectation, make sure that his grounding really is a full two weeks.
“If you can’t do that, then don’t say it,” McDermott points out. “Having that follow through is so important. Parenting takes a lot of time, it’s a job. Come up with a basket of tricks beforehand so you’re not just saying something off the cuff that you can’t follow through with.”
The worst thing a parent can do is make idle threats because your child will figure that out very quickly. Say what you mean, mean what you say, and follow through. When your child knows you are serious, he will think carefully before disobeying a family rule.