Monday, April 18, 2011

Threats / Warnings

Do you find yourself counting??  Warning? Threatening? Raising your voice?
When you ask your kids to do something, do they obey right-away or do they wait for YOUR cue?  What is the cue you give your kids to finally listen to you?  We all train our kids to listen (or not listen) to us.  They learn to know when we mean business, when we are serious, when we are about to loose it...

I am totally convinced that we are all training our kids, even when we don't realize it.  If you ask your child to do something and they don't do it, do you start counting?  If so you are training your child to obey after you have said "two", but before you say "three!"  If you are one that is apt to raise your voice, you child may not see the importance in listening to you until you reach the right decibel they have grown accustom to.  If you are the parent that gives out threats {dare I say, idle threats} you are teaching your child that your word can't be trusted, that you lack follow-through.  And if you are warning your child over and over again, they are learning that you don't really mean what you say, and that they don't have to listen to you at all.

One of our dear friend's husbands described to Mr. Steady and I once why he hates warnings so much because of what it does to him.  "The first time I give an instruction I am calm. If the instruction is ignored. I warn again, this time still calm, but getting a tiny bit frustrated.  By the third, forth or tenth time I have to ask, I am completely frustrated!  I don't like to respond to my kids when I am frustrated."  Isn't that so true?!  That the frustration in us builds each time we have to repeat our instruction.  Or is it just me that feels that way?

A few years ago I had a friend over and her child kept disobeying her.  She said to her son, "If you do that again, you are going to get a time-out."  Two minutes later my friend said "If you do that again, your going to get a time-out." This happened over and over (at least, no joke 8 times), with NO time-outs given.  I was biting my tongue {literally} - all I wanted to say to her was, "If you threaten a time-out one more time and don't follow-through, I'm going to put you both in time-out!"

You see, {in my opinion} she was training her child that he didn't have to listen to her; that she wouldn't follow through and that what she said didn't matter.  And to be honest, it is really a dis-service to our kids to give more than one warning, and especially idle threats, becuase our poor kiddos never know when you are actually going to follow through... any consequence will feel like a surprise to them.... because you have threatened before and not followed through, so why now????

I am so guilty of this!  This is just one of many examples, but I have found my self saying, "if you do that again we are going to leave." Then I didn't leave when they did it again.... becuase it was inconvenient for me.  Uggh, it is so hard!  There are so many areas in parenting where we need to die to self, to put our child's heart (and heart-training) above our agenda, conversations and convenience!

Here are a few things to consider...
  • It is better to say nothing than to threaten something and not follow through!  
  • Remember that you are the one giving your kid the cues for when they really have to obey.  Consciously decide it you are okay with your current cues or if you need to regain some self-control and consistency.
  • Remember the more warnings, the more likely you are to get frustrated.  Keep your heart, actions and tone of voice in check.
  • Kids rise to the expectations put on them.  It will never be perfect.  We have kids with sinful hearts, and we as parents have sinful hearts.  But I promise that if you expect sass, you will get sass.  If you expect (and therefore condone) arguing, you better believe that your child is becoming an expert debater.  Don't be afraid to expect obedience the first time you ask something.
  • If/when you decide that you are going to change things up in this regard... Start by talking with your child about it.  Let them know that how you have been doing things is going to change.  Apologize, and tell them that how you handled this in the past was not the best way, that your job as a mommy or daddy is hard and that you are sorry that you did not do it right from the start.  Then tell your child what is now expected of them, and how you will follow through.
Parenting is a hard job, no need to make it harder on yourself or your child by being inconsistent with your expectations and follow-through.  Kids thrive on consistency, it gives them security, even when the consistency entails consequences!

"Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from evil."
Matthew 5:37


  1. Thanks for writing this all out Kelly!!! Totally what I needed to hear today! It's funny how I "know" in my head the right thing to do, but in the moment it doesn't happen. Thanks for reminding me to stop in the moment to think about how I am responding to my kiddo's and what I am actually training them to do and think.

  2. I agree. The reminder is helpful. And yes...its easy to slip into not "following-through"!

  3. I love this Kelly. I love your blog and am catching up and getting to know you through it. You are one wise woman.



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