Mean What You Say

When it comes to kids, it’s best to say what you mean & mean what you say. Kids have a way of knowing when you are bluffing. They are clever creatures who won’t fall for tricky tactics. Regardless, we have all threatened things we aren’t really going to follow through with. Like, if your child is acting up when you are visiting friends. And, you tell her “if you don’t stop, I’m going to take you home.” Both you and your child know this isn’t going to happen. It’s an empty threat. And as such, the child will probably continue with her naughty behavior, knowing there won’t be an immediate consequence.

There’s no point in threatening a punishment that you aren’t willing to follow through with. Such as, taking something precious away, leaving early from a party, not attending a get together, etc. You should only threaten a consequence that you are willing to see through. Think about it before you say it because once it’s out there, you need to continue down the path you set. Otherwise, your child won’t take you seriously.

I make an effort to only say what I mean, & mean what I say to my children. They know that whatever I say will happen, really will happen. As a result, they take me seriously (most of the time anyway). I’ll give you an example of my son not finishing his breakfast & lunch.

It used to be a torture to get my oldest ready for school in a timely manner. He would take his sweet time getting dressed & then sit looking at his cereal forever. I used to nag him along and, as a result, the mornings were miserable for both of us. I ended up making two changes to the morning routine. First, I initiated a punishment of no treats for the day if he didn’t finish his cereal.

Second, I had a positive reward of playing a quick game with me if he finished breakfast and was dressed & ready to go early. The combination of a punishment and positive reward worked really well. I did have to follow through with the no treats punishment several times. He was always very disappointed to not have dessert after dinner. But, it was motivation to finish his cereal the next day. Now, the mornings are smooth and positive. Both boys eat their breakfasts and are ready on time. The punishment/reward system is still in place so I never had any issues with my 5-year-old. By the time he started school, the positive morning routine was in full swing.

Also, the school lunch used to come back home with only a bite or two taken out of it. I’d nag and complain that he needs to eat his lunch. I’d explain how he needs food in his body to function & learn. This was another annoyance for both of us and nothing was changing until I expanded the “no treat unless you finish breakfast rule” to include lunch too. I allow for parts of the lunch coming home but not the entire thing. Both of my boys usually finish their lunches, unless I pack something they don’t like.

I aim to be consistent in all areas of life with my kids. If I want to see improved behavior, I only threaten a realistic punishment that I follow through with. And along with that, I have a positive reward for good behavior. I find this works really effectively! Both when we are at home and when we are out and about. What do you think?

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