How to Avoid Blurting Out a Punishment
“You're grounded from all electronics for the entire summer!”
This is the punishment I blurted out recently after my child had done something for the umpteenth time that I told him over and over again not to do. It was a completely insane punishment and the minute it came out of my mouth I knew I wouldn’t uphold it.
Been There. Done That.
I know that every parent with kids old enough to talk has probably been there. In situations like the one above, we get angry, and because we don’t have a plan for what the consequence will be, we become temporarily out of our minds.
“I’m cancelling your birthday party!”
“You’re grounded from ever going outside this house for a year!”
Most of us probably know that if we don’t follow through with our discipline, our kids will never, ever believe us when we try to tell them what the consequence will be.
We also know that fear tactics don’t work (though that doesn’t prevent us from issuing them in moments of exasperation).
What works is when we tell them what will happen…and we actually follow through.
I’m not a parenting expert, but I’m a parent and I know I’ve failed at following through so many times.
And I can tell you why.
I didn’t have a plan.
To Avoid Blurting Out Punishments, Have a Plan
Here’s the truth: we all need a plan, because without boundaries, kids feel out of control. Predictability—knowing what’s going to happen—makes kids feel safe and loved. And they’ll test us over and over again, sometimes subconsciously, trying to see if they can trust us. So when we’re consistent, they learn they can trust us.
Of course, even when I follow through with my discipline, it doesn’t mean my kids will never ignore me and misbehave again. But I know for sure that if I don’t follow through, they will most definitely do it again, and again, and again, and again.
Hello temporary insanity.
So how do we avoid (or at least try to avoid) these temporary bouts of insanity?
Great Parenting Tool: the "If, Then" Chart
One of the most helpful things I discovered when my kids were younger was an “If, Then” chart:
“If you do this [fill in the blank with misbehavior], then [fill in the blank with consequence].”
A few years ago my husband and I sat down with our kids and read through the “ifs” on our chart and asked them to help us come up with what the consequence should be. They were pretty good at it—and they were only around 4 and 6-years-old at the time.
I have to admit, I have “fallen off the wagon” plenty of times. As my children have gotten older, they’ve outgrown the list of offenses and consequences on the chart. But the chart still hangs on the fridge, and it’s been a helpful reminder to me from time-to-time (mostly when I lose my cool) that I need to have a plan.
The chart didn’t make me a perfect parent. And it didn’t make my kids perfect kids. But it definitely has helped me remember that having a plan for discipline makes parenting a little bit easier.
Next time you have a temporary bout of insanity and dish out a ridiculous punishment, here’s a tip: cool off, then tell your child you’re sorry that you overreacted, and then tell them what the real punishment will be.
And for the next time it happens (and I guarantee there will be a next time)…be prepared!
Have you ever used an “if, then” chart, or some other kind of discipline planning tool? Share about what’s worked for your family in the comments, below.
--by Melissa Towers