“I want that train whistle,” the 4-year-old said as he walked by the train ticket booth at the zoo.
“You already have one,” his mom responded.
“But mine is not blue, I don’t have a blue one.”
“They sound just the same,” mom justifies.
“I want that blue one, I want it!!”
“You don’t even play with the one you have!”
“Yes, I do, but the blue one is better. Get it for me!”
“It is three days before Christmas, I am not getting you any toys!”
“You always get stuff for yourself,” he counters.
“I do not, I never buy myself things!”
“You get Starbucks everyday!”
“I do NOT get Starbucks every day. I rarely go there, and besides I deserve a Starbucks now and then.”
“You are so mean, you always get Starbucks, you never buy us anything!”
“I always buy you things. Have you noticed the packages under the Christmas tree??”
“I want a blue whistle!! I want a blue whistle!!”
“Stop it, I am not buying you anything!!”
“Mean mommy, mean mommy!!”
“That’s it!!! Christmas is Canceled!!!”
With shock and eyes as big as saucers the boy whispers,
“I hate you!”
I silently watched as the trauma unfolded.
“Does this mean Christmas is canceled for us too?” I wondered.
Wow, we get so frustrated sometimes arguing with our kids that we back ourselves into the “Immediate Consequence Corner.” Then we give these outlandish, ridiculous consequences that we immediately regret and that we have no way to enforce.
We say things to get back at our kids or to get their attention, and then we lose our parental authority because it is an idle threat that we can not follow through with.
How many times have you heard, “If you don’t come now, I am leaving you at the store (or park or school)?”
We can say “no” and set a limit without having to get angry and get backed into the Immediate Consequence Corner
“I want that blue whistle!”
“Wow, that toy looks so much fun.” (Validates the kid’s feelings)
“I want it.”
“I bet you do, it looks neat. I wonder if it sounds different from the one you have at home?”
“Can I have it?”
“Of course you can, as long as you can pay for it.” (Setting a limit with an enforceable statement)
“But I don’t have any money.”
“Oh, that’s too bad. Well, I don’t have any money for more toys either.” (Empathy before the “consequence”)
Mom continues, “It makes me excited for Christmas though, because I know there are toys under the tree. Let’s go and enjoy the train ride. Let’s listen for the train whistle.”
If the kid persists, just delay the consequence until later:
“Oh honey, I’m going to have to do something about this badgering. I’ll let you know when we get home. Try not to worry.” (Following through with action using empathy before the delayed consequence)
Then we don’t have to come up with something immediately and we have time to think and they have time to “worry”! This causes the parent to be calm, the child to think and puts the parent back in control!