More on consequences

7th March 2016

This week I wanted to say just one more thing about consequences.  And that one thing is this:

Follow through.

You gotta, gotta, gotta follow through with the consequences that you’ve set out during the Power Lecture.  If you don’t then your kids will develop some really powerful beliefs about you and your word, namely that you don’t mean what you say.

No matter how awkward or embarrassing, you’ve got to stick to your guns on those consequences that you’ve outlined…  You will feel mean.  You will feel judged.  You may even feel a little ridiculous, but you’ve got to be brave and follow through.

I have a gorgeous, gorgeous friend that you would probably love.  She’s a teacher – primary – and like me she uses lots of teaching strategies in her parenting.  So – this one time she comes to Merimbula to visit me and we took her daughter to the local aquarium.  As we were going downstairs to enter the aquarium, my friend’s little girl (she would’ve been about two) noticed some soft toys for sale.  Right or wrong she wanted a soft toy.  My friend firmly told her no and changed the subject with a bright and excited voice.  Something like “We don’t need toys – we’re going to see all the fish!  Come on!”

Down we went into the aquarium – but the two year old was having none of it.  “I want a toy I want a toy I want a toy I want a toy…” was the mantra that followed us as we stood at each tank.  We ignored.  We re-directed.  We made over excited, distracting comments about the fish (“Look – I’ve found Nemo!” bahaha).  The two year old was ready for us though and like Dory’s motto of just keep swimming she just kept nagging with a fair bit of squirming, wriggling, running away and squealing.

At this point my friend got down to eye level and said very firmly:

“We are not buying a toy.  We are here to look at the fish.  If you carry on like that any more, we are going to sit in the car.  Do not ask for a toy again or we will sit in the car – do you understand?”

Two year old nodded.  Solemnly.  The gauntlet had been thrown down.

By this stage there was a special talk being delivered and we were asked to sit down in a particular area ready to listen.  Just a moment into the presenter’s talk, the two year old started writhing and wrangling – insisting she go upstairs to get a toy.  It was kinda awkward: people looked at us, the presenter stopped talking, the fish looked annoyed.

My friend did not lose her cool.  She just said – quietly – “Okay, car.  Let’s go.”  (Funny how the two year old suddenly wanted her bum to be glued to the seat and her full attention went front and centre – fascinated by the feeding patterns of rays and bream).  But now it was my friend who was having none of it – she firmly lifted her child up and left the aquarium.  After about twenty minutes she returned – with two year old.

“What did you do?” I asked.

“Sat in the car,” she said simply.  “You gotta follow through.”

For the rest of the aquarium trip we had excellent behaviour.  At the end we walked past the toys without incident.  And as I recall the rest of their visit went without any further incidents.  It was as though that one little boundary-tester had set the scene for the rest of their visit.  The message was clear: Mum’s word still stands even here on holidays.

That’s the thing with consequences.  You only have to follow through a few times before your kids will realise you are serious.  They will learn that when you outline a consequence you really mean it.

Of course good behaviour is followed with some Power Praise.  Try to keep bribery to a minimum too – we want to establish a feeling that positive behaviour and getting along with others actually feels good.  This is called intrinsic motivation and it’s a really great way for kids to gain all important skills and values associated with self-control, self-importance, success and personal effort.

So – follow through with the consequences this week and let me know how it goes!

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