Ryan, an adorable child of two, won’t go to bed for his mother. Instead, he bounces. Then he sneaks out of bed and finds the iPad, demands water and snacks, needs hugs and then more hugs. Mother cannot get him to sleep.
Grampa, however, can. Ryan knows that there is no messing around with Grampa when its bed time. He does not leave the bed to go wandering, i-Padding or hugging. Ryan’s mother doesn’t understand why; Grampa knows.
When Grampa says that it’s bath time at 8:30, it’s bath time at 8:30. Then teeth are brushed and Ryan gets into his jammies. Bedtime is at nine. If Ryan does not go to bed at nine, there are consequences. Grampa follows through. Ryan has gotten to be very good at understanding with whom he can do what. Mother puts up with things that Grampa doesn’t. This routine was established at the first sleepover.
Parents often try to show their kids that they are loved by letting bad behaviors slide. At that point, rules are used more as guidelines or suggestions. Suggestions do not help Ryan’s mother set standards of behavior or teach life skills. Grampa doesn’t need any suggestions. (You may have guessed that I am Grampa in this scenario. Of course, Grampa can only make tuna casserole, so points awarded to my daughter, Ryan’s mother.)
“Sometimes our natural inclination to love our children can cloud our judgment regarding discipline,” said James E. Faust, appointed by U.S. President John F. Kennedy to the Committee for Civil Rights, and LDS General Authority. “Direction and discipline are … an indispensable part of child rearing. … If parents do not discipline their children, then the public will discipline them in a way the parents do not like.”
How are you on following through?
Parents who are successful at following through are familiar with this list:
1. Don’t say it unless you mean it. Children are smarter than most imagine. And on top of that, they see when you are sleeping, they know when you’re awake, they know when you don’t mean it or you are bluffing.
There was a movie years ago about a lady who was very overweight. When one of her children did something wrong, she screamed like the dickens and gave them “What for.” “Don’t make me get off of this couch and come after you.” She couldn’t stand up, let alone give anyone anything but a verbal shellacking. Her kids did what they wanted.
2. If you meant it, then follow through with what you say or your words mean nothing. Just as bad — your kids will stop listening.
3. Do you joke with the child with the same words or in the same tone that you spell out consequences? You might want to try being very clear with your wording.
4. Don’t be tricksy (Think Gollum). Say things in a straightforward manner. Don’t use your nice voice to get the child to cooperate, and then when he is within grabbing distance let terror reign on him. He will learn duplicity. He will also stop coming to you when you ask.
5. Lose the sarcasm. Could he be getting mixed messages? Does mommy make a list of soon-to-be-coming punishments in jest during the day? Is she “just playing” when she says to come give her a hug or get a spanking? Be clear.
Amber Creek Counseling says, “Eventually, [children] manage to define themselves through a messy and rocky process of trial and error, ‘practice relationships,’ and through testing their limits and boundaries.”
They continue,”Who do they practice on? Parents and family. Though you will hear differently from teens, they prefer consistency.”
Same child, 13 years later
How does this look when Ryan gets older? He comes home from school and yells at his little sister, throws things around the kitchen and mutters “I hate you” to everybody, though no one in general. Then he slams a few things around and complains loudly about how much his family sucks.
If Mother let it go, the next show will be more of the same. Thoughtful, timely follow-through creates emotional stability. He should know that there are appropriate behaviors on one hand, and on the other hand, there is what he is doing. He lives in a family, not in a herd. How does he know this? Because a parent cared enough to follow through with established boundaries and logical consequences.
Ron L. Deal, President of Smart Stepfamilies, says,“Children … need parents who boldly respond with firm and loving consequence to the child’s behavior.
“Parent your kids,” Deal says. “Love them enough to discipline them well. It’s their gift for life.”