One of the most important lessons parents learn is to follow through on what they ask of their children. If you ask your child if he picked up his clothes after he got up, go check it. If you ask him to feed the cat, take a quick look. If you asked him to make his bed, check it.
Checking what he says he has done does not indicate a lack of trust; it shows you will follow through. Your child needs to know you will so that when he is a teen and asks to go to a party, you check to make sure that there are adults there to supervise. It just makes common sense. It also helps you become a follow through mom.
After you follow through, make sure that you follow through on consequences when he doesn’t do what he has indicated he has done. Yes, consequences still matter. Your child is growing but he still needs to continue to learn that inappropriate behavior creates appropriate consequences. For a young child, you might try the following consequences when you feel your child has done the wrong thing:
• Time-out (one minute for each year of his age)
• Send him to his room (this sometimes doesn’t work)
• Withhold a play date with a friend (this only works if there was a play date planned)
• Loss of 10 minutes of TV, computer/video game use (whatever is most important to him)
• To bed 20 minutes early
• Loss of a planned trip to the park or a special outing
• Loss of 10 minutes of playtime
Make sure, whatever you decide to do that you follow through.
It is equally important that you avoid consequences that are too much for your child. Even though it is sometimes disputed, research shows that spanking has harmful side effects. You also do not want to use consequences that damage the bond you have with your child.
You need to avoid deciding on what the consequences will be when you are very angry. Think it over. Cool down first. Then decide what the consequences should be.
Along with spanking, try to exclude hitting of all forms, pushing, kicking, pinching, out of control yelling, sarcasm of any kind, locking in any room, or skipping more than one meal. These practices can cross the line and become abusive. This is especially true if you do them when you are too angry.
One of the best ways to change poor behavior is to compliment your child for good behavior. This gives her attention for doing the right thing. Pay attention to how you respond.
Are you responding more to poor behavior or to good behavior? You want to be sure you are giving your most attention to rewarding good behavior.
The lessons you learn and the ones you teach him by using appropriate consequences for what he does, help him learn to obey his teacher, the rules, the law, people in authority, and you. You can see that this is an important lesson that we all need.
Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. Contact First Teacher Executive Director Patsene Dashiell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-681-2250.