Don’t make empty threats to children

The Feliciraptor is a punk. We tell her she is a punk and she just throws a cute face back at me. She has started to reach the age where any trouble or mischief is consciously driven, if she misbehaves she is doing it on purpose. This now means we are having to become strict with her.

The key learning I took from my childhood is if you are going to make a threat it has to be one you are going to follow through on. The child may be a punk but she also knows Daddy is not a pushover.

None of the trouble she causes is from malice, so I refuse to punish her behaviour. Instead we are trying to teach her how her actions affect other people. When she refuses to tidy up we will tidy up for her, but it does mean that some of what we tidy may end up disappearing.

This was the case last week when she refused to tidy up the mess in the front room. Pieces of wooden food were strewn across the floor and when I sat down to put them away with her she flat out refused to help. She was given opportunities to help, even the dreaded countdown from three. Rather than just put the fake watermelon and bread away she was told that if she didn’t help I would take them away.

The key part of this is that I didn’t threaten something that could be taken back. If I had threatened to throw it in the bin then what could I do? I would have had to have made good on my promise and dumped expensive toys to prove a point. If I had done this then I would have also lost my bargaining chip.

As I tidied up the books she was offered the chance to help and refused, as the cups were put back in her kitchen she stood watching, there was a lack of response when I put ‘baby’ to bed. Even the threat of taking items away was met with a stare, and no reaction when I followed through and took books and dolls and placed them in the hall.

In the end nothing I did was going to get her to tidy up, until I rewarded myself with a sticker.

Of all things toddlers cherish, it is the sticker they value above all else.

Once I placed that sticker on my chest for ‘good tidying’ all hell let loose. Tears and stamping, the Feliciraptor flipped out because “Daddy has my sticker”. She refused to accept that I deserved one for my efforts and went as far to remove my Peppa Pig badge of honour.

To which I rewarded myself with another sticker (to replace the original) and another one for my ‘trauma’.

The key lesson I am trying to instill in our children is that you can do wrong, but you still have a chance to redeem yourself. Whenever they get into trouble they will be offered the opportunity to rectify the situation without further punishment.

With an inconsolable three year old wanting a sticker I gave her one last chance to tidy up. I still had the few toys I had removed that she could put away, and with a few pathetic sobs she agreed to this deal.

I could have made her tidy up and then still punish her but what does that teach her? Even if you make right you will be treated as though you did wrong. I know if this was me I would decide that as the treatment will be the same why make the effort?

There have been times where she has chosen the less wise path and has gone to sleep with all her books and favourite items out of her room. I make no threat that is harmful and, more importantly, impossible.

She is still a punk though.

Published by Geek Ergo Sum

Ah, so you worked out the riddle. You just needed to use dwarfish and the doors to Geek Ergo Sum opened. Or perhaps you just used Google. Either way you are here, on my little corner of the Internet.

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