Friday, February 26, 2010

The Problem with Making Idle Threats to Your Kids

Children don't just learn things through osmosis....they must be taught, and the best way for parents to teach values to their children is through leading by example. Say what you mean and mean what you say or the kids will see right through your idle threats.
I’m not saying that’s easy. Parents today are overworked and stressed out. The last thing we want to do is fight with our children. There are times when it's easier to give in than have yet another battle. However, your most important job is being a parent.

Kids are incredibly smart and they recognize how to get what they want. It is the parents' job to set the rules and carry them out and that is best done by leading by example so the kids understand what the expectations are. When parents tell their kids something, but don't follow through, they are being ineffective. Consider the story of Trevor.

Trevor was a three year old boy in our class who figured out very quickly that his father’s threats were usually idle. On a grocery store field trip. The kids, including Trevor, were very excited. Trevor wanted to touch everything he saw. First, he grabbed an apple from the shelf, which caused several more apples to roll to the ground. At that point, his father reminded him that Trevor wasn’t allowed to touch anything. A moment later, Trevor took a cucumber and started laying with it. At this, Trevor’s father raised his voice and told his son that if he touched one more thing they were going home. In a few short minutes, Trevor nabbed a candy bar off another shelf. Again, his father told him to stop touching things with the threat that they would go home.

And yet again, Trevor took another item from the shelf. His father got angrier, repeatedly threatening to leave the store, without having any intention of doing so. There was no reason for Trevor to stop touching things because he knew there would be no consequence. His father’s threats were idle.

Trevor’s dad had choices which would have stopped his son’s behavior and taught a valuable lesson. He could have threatened to leave and then actually left. Or, he might have chosen another punishment that he could follow through on. For example, he might have told Trevor that if he kept touching things, they’d have to sit for five minutes and miss out on the class visiting the lobster tank in the seafood department. By following through on that threat, Trevor would be disappointed to miss seeing the lobsters, but he would know that his father meant what he said.

Parents need to think about what they are saying, and be ready to follow through. Walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk. If you follow through the first time, the kids will be less apt to challenge you the next time.


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