When I was growing up, I had a bit of an attitude. I was assertive (insert stubborn) and knew what I wanted (still do). I loved to test the limits. This gave my parents, especially my mom who was with me nearly 24/7, a run for their money.
On one particular occasion, of which I know only from family lore, we were going to Kings Island. Those of you who aren’t from Ohio and the surrounding states may not know, but Kings Island is about the coolest amusement park around and I was a huge roller coaster fan. It helped that I had height on my side as a kid and could make it on all the “super awesome” rides at a young age. In this tale, they say I was probably five.
I am one of three kids, I have an older and younger brother. For some reason or another, I was being really annoying and my mom told me to knock it off, or I was not going to Kings Island that day. So, in true snarky fashion, I looked her straight in the eyes and did it again.
No one can remember what “it” was, but that is beside the point because the ultimatum was already out there.
As my mom recounts the story, she says, “The moment I said it, I regretted it because I knew I would have to follow through.”
And there it was: the consequence.
As my dad and my brothers left for the dream day, I was left screaming alone in the back room, kicking the garage door. And guess what? I believed my mom from then on, and it didn’t ruin my childhood as evidenced by the fact that I can’t remember it happening, and I have only wonderful memories from my younger years.
Now that I have kids, I know exactly what she meant when she said she regretted the consequence (or threat of consequence) the moment she blurted it out. I give myself such a hard time mentally when I have threatened a consequence that I wish I hadn’t because I have to follow through. Whether or not the punishment fits the crime, it’s important that our kids know that I mean what I say — that my words are not empty.
Why we need to follow through:
I think the main reason people don’t is because they are exhausted from parenthood and just do not think that they have the energy for yet another meltdown about the punishment after the meltdown that caused said punishment. We are all tired, ya know?
But, it is worse to change your mind and let it slide.
Kids need boundaries. As silly as it sounds, they do learn that whining does not get them what they want in life by not getting the lollipop in the check-out line at Krogers. They need to know they cannot scream at you and still get the ice cream because that is disrespectful.
You may disagree with me, but the home is their world and the family is their first community.
Home is where they are learning appropriate behavior. You are responsible for setting boundaries and sticking to them. It starts somewhere and that somewhere is with you!
Does that scare you? Because it scares me!
I am not always the best example of how to manage my emotions and yet, that is how my kids are processing theirs. We have to be parents of our word, or they won’t believe it the next time we draw a line in the sand whether it be for their safety or our sanity.
I used to let my kids apologize (even if it was heartless) and ‘earn back’ the privilege that was taken from them due to their monumental tantrum about not going to the café on the walk home from school or the screaming match between siblings about who touched who first.
My husband was worse than me, always saying, “if you do that one more time, you’re not getting (insert anything here),” only to let it happen anyway 20 minutes later.
Then one day when it happened. I said, “What have you ever gotten in life by whining? Who has ever changed their mind because you threw enough of a fit?”
I thought it was rhetorical, but in unison, both my daughters answered, “Dad, we always get what we want with him.”
We had been duped. They were playing us, and they never believed we were going to stand by our word.
At that moment I realized that we are not doing our kids any favors by being too tired to mean what we say.
We are not doing society any favors either by raising whiny, entitled kids. Because kids grow up to be adults.
If we let our kids bully us into getting what they want, then they are going to try to the same tactic on their peers. And I don’t want to raise a bully. This is their world (the home) and the real world that is waiting for them some day will not be as lenient as we used to be (emphasis on the word ‘used’).
Children are incredible gifts that we have been given as parents. Honestly, the most precious. I want them to grow up with an optimistic and yet, realistic view of life. That starts at home. That starts with showing them that there are limits on what is acceptable and what’s not going to fly.
Their world is so tiny in the grand scheme of things, yet so big to them that the not-being-able-to-invite-their-friend-over-today might seem like the end of their world. If we start with helping them handle those situations and emotions correctly, they will understand how to appropriately handle the bigger ones as their world view expands.
So the next time you see a mom dragging her child out of the store under one arm while the child flails around and foams at the mouth like he or she is possessed over not getting the cherry Chapstick at checkout, give that mom an air high-five and say (or scream over her child’s screams), “Yea girl! His future boss thanks you” because we are all in this together.
And when it comes to consequences, don’t speak what you won’t serve.