As we were walking through the airport recently I instructed Audrey to “Please hold mommy’s hand.”
“But mommy, we are not in parking lot, “ she replied with confusion.
“I know honey, but there are a lot of people, strangers, and I can keep you safer if you are holding my hand.”
“Ok, mommy, I will hold hands and stay riiighhhhttt with you ‘cause I want ice cream!”
“Huh?” was my response. To which she described to me the time when Sammy (her cousin) got ice cream and she did not because she did not stay with me and hold my hand, she did not listen… so she would listen and hold my hand now because she wanted ice cream… Let me explain!
One day last summer my mother and I took Sammy, my 4 year old nephew, Audrey, my 2 year old, and Ethan, my baby boy to the park. We had reviewed the rules with them upon arriving and informed them that if they followed the rules and we had a fun afternoon then maybe we could stop to get ice cream on the way home from the park. The kids had a great time and played well. As we were preparing to leave I called the kids over and requested that they stand beside me while I loaded Ethan into his infant car seat. Audrey started to walk down the sidewalk. “Audrey Grace back here beside me please.”
She walked on.
“Audrey Grace, you will lose your ice cream if you do not get back up here.”
She walked on.
“Ok, no ice cream for you.”
Hhhrrmmpph! I was upset at her defiance. Luckily we were the only car in the parking lot so even though I did not fear for her safety walking ahead of me I wanted to make the point that the rules I make are for her safety and are to be followed at all times. So, we loaded into the car and headed toward the ice cream store. Audrey told me a few times that she wanted strawberry ice cream. I replied that maybe she could earn ice cream next time but that she would get NO ice cream this time because she did not listen and did not follow the rules. She turned her ears on and promised me that she would listen and follow the rules. I told her that I was glad her ears were on now and that I expected her to listen and follow the rules all of the time, but that she was STILL not getting ice cream this time. I explained that she would be rewarded next time if she was following the rules and listening.
We pulled into the ice cream store parking lot and Sammy climbed out of his seat. My mother stayed in the car with Audrey and Ethan. Audrey began to cry and whimper in protest and my mother replied with “I know it is hard Audrey but you need to listen in the future. You can be sad and upset but this is the consequence to you not listening and not following the rules.”
My heart broke. This was a hard lesson for her to learn and an even harder lesson for me to reinforce. After all she was only a baby, a mere 2 years old. What would it hurt to give her an ice cream just this time, I mean we had discussed the rules and she knew she did wrong.
But I pushed on reminding myself that NOW is the time to begin learning consequence and punishment and rewards to lessen the battles in the future. NOW is the time to only say what I mean and mean what I say, no empty threats.
So, I bought Sammy an ice cream treat, refused my own because I just couldn’t push the issue that far, and we returned to the car. Sammy ate his ice cream with delight, only reminding Audrey a few times that he was good and listened and she was bad and did not listen. Audrey was sad but she was surprisingly calm and seemed to get over it rather quickly, so I was unsure if there was any impact other then my broken heart.
Alas, fast forward eight months, to the airport recently that I mentioned. As we walked through the airport she turned on her ears, grabbed my hand and declared “I will stay RIGHT with you mommy and hold your hand because I am listening and following the rules!”
And we walked right up to the ice cream stand and Audrey got some ice cream!
My heart swelled! She had learned a lesson! This is the reinforcement that every parent needs!
1.) Discipline is an act of love, not of anger, to teach your children important life lessons.
2.) There are consequences to every action and your children need to learn this from you so that they don’t have to learn this from outside persons such as school authorities or the police. They learn to respect rules and boundaries from what they experience at home.
3.) Children need to know what the rules are, what the consequences are, and that the rules and consequences are enforced.
What are your moments of successful parenting?