“That’s it! No more TV for the whole month!” How to stop making empty threats and start using limits and consequences instead

I was at the library the other day watching an exasperated mom chase after her son, shouting things like “put that down or we’re going to leave!”, “stop throwing those puzzle pieces or we’ll go home and put you in time out!” “Do you want to leave? Then stop hitting!”

She finally grabbed him, told him to stop and then STAYED at the library.

We all have been there – yelling threats that we can’t or don’t actually execute, while our kid just runs us ragged, getting on our every nerve and still refusing to cooperate.

Why is it so hard to follow through with the threats (I mean consequences:)?
1. Our thoughts about setting limits and giving consequences get in the way
  • We feel guilty, then we don’t follow through, and then our child is believes they can manipulate us.
  • We have the thought that it’s just easier to give in and then we lose our child’s confidence in us.
  • We don’t want our kids to be disappointed or sad when we enforce a consequence, and so we back down because we want our kids to like us and we want a “peaceful” home.

But, If we indeed do give in or back down, we have given all of our power away to our kids, and then we really struggle to get them to listen, to want to comply and to get them to trust us.

2. We keep threatening, giving punishments or coercing with rewards because we don’t know what else to do or are reacting impulsively.

When we yell at our kids and threaten them when they act out, our brain memorizes that pattern and then it becomes a habit. We also may not know another way to get our kids to behave, so just dole out commands, threats and punishments, and keep yelling and threatening and then get stuck in that cycle.

Enforceable Statements and Natural Consequences

A better way to deal with misbehavior is to set our kids up for success through “enforceable statements” and choices so that we have less need to give consequences.

When we tell our children what we will do if they don’t comply, they will more likely do what we ask, because it will get them what they want.

1. Enforceable statements (this concept is from Parenting with Love and Logic)

  • I’d be happy to take you to the mall when your room is clean.
  • You’re welcome to watch TV once your chores are completed.
  • Would you rather do your homework right when you get home from school or right before dinner?
  • I would be happy to help you clean your room until 10am, and then I will be going to the store.

But what if they still don’t misbehave or they don’t comply? Then we follow through with what the enforceable statement says and we show empathy while giving the consequence.

Like in the example above, you wouldn’t take your child to the mall, if their room wasn’t clean but you say to them, “this is such a bummer, but it’s dinner time and your room isn’t clean, so unfortunately we won’t be able to go to the mall today. I know it’s disappointing, but you’ll have another chance tomorrow.”

And then let them be upset. It’s ok. It was their choice.

2. Natural consequences are the best teachers.

If your child still doesn’t comply, you can use natural consequences. To find a natural consequence, imagine that you are not in the picture and what would happen to your child if they didn’t do what you asked of them.

For example, maybe the natural consequence to their homework not getting done would be that they would get a bad grade, or maybe their room would be so messy that they wouldn’t be able to find their favorite baseball glove, maybe they would get so dirty that someone makes comment at school, or maybe they wear the wrong coat outside and end up cold.

Natural consequences are related to the poor choice. This method gives your child the best chance to learn their lesson without you nagging them and telling them.

Being firm but kind, showing empathy, and encouraging your child to try again next time, letting them learn from the natural consequence, and not threatening or giving them a lecture from you, helps children feel like they have a choice and prevents you from looking like the bad guy.

We all know kids fight bad guys.

Remember that holding your child responsible for their actions and following through on consequences isn’t mean, it actually prepares your kids for being mature adults who can handle disappointment when they don’t get what they want.

Adults who know how to make mistakes and move forward.

And adults that are confident and secure in themselves.

Why changing our THOUGHTS is the key to changing how we discipline

In order to stop yelling and threatening, and to more often use enforceable statements and natural consequences, we need to learn to think different thoughts that help us follow through, to stay patient, kind, curious and confident while holding our kids accountable. Then we have a much better chance of being consistent.

Thoughts you may be having when you yell or threaten:
  • My child is being rude.
  • My child is being disrepectful
  • There is something wrong with my child because they are misbehaving.
  • This is big problem.
  • This isn’t fair that I have to deal with this!
  • Why can’t they just behave!
Thoughts that will help you to use enforceable statements and natural consequences:
  • This is totally normal.
  • I can deal with this.
  • Nothing has gone wrong here.
  • This is not a problem.
  • I can do hard things and so can my child.
  • My child is learning how to be disappointed and that’s important.
  • My child is learning how to be responsible.
  • I am helping my child feel safe and loved.
In order to master changing the way we talk to our children, and to be consistent and correct from love, we need to pay attention to and change our thoughts about our kids and their behavior.

This is why a jumping on a Confidence Call with me will help you to discover what thoughts are preventing you from following through with consequences, from staying patient, and from connecting with your kids.

We will then change those negative thoughts that are making you feel guilty or angry to thoughts that give you confidence and compassion with setting limits and following though with consequences. 

You will leave the call with step by step plan on exactly what to say and when to say it so that you can be more effective in managing correction and misbehavior. 

Imagine getting off a call with me and knowing what to exactly say and think so that you can feel confident on how to follow through with what you say you will do, gain your child’s trust, get them to comply easier and have a good relationship with them starting now.

Sounds too good to be true, but it’s not. Many of my clients have experienced amazing breakthroughs in dealing with their kids behavior in just a 20 minute call! I can’t wait to talk!

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