Some of the best parenting advice I’ve heard is to prep your kids before you go somewhere. That way they’re reminded of your expectations ahead of time and will deal with the consequences upon failure to meet those expectations.
“Jimmy, we are going to the park. Do you want to have fun? Then here’s what needs to happen. We don’t spit on anyone or anything. Wood chips are for walking on, not for throwing. You can climb stairs and ladders; you may not climb up the side of the slide. We are kind to our friends so you will not hit or push other kids, even if someone hits or pushes you. I want you to have a happy attitude, even if I can’t push you on the swings. I do not want to hear whining about snacks. If you choose not to obey these rules you will proceed directly to the Park Bench; you will not pass Go; you will not collect $200. I hope you make good choices today. Do you understand?”
Jimmy is a hypothetical child with a good sense of humor about Monopoly references. He nods his head and goes off to play. At one point he reaches down and ponders propelling wood chips into the atmosphere. But then he looks back at Mom. She gives him The Look. He drops the chips and continues to have a pleasant experience for the rest of the outing.
My real child, James (whom I do not call Jimmy), is finally able to process and comprehend “prep talks” fairly well at age 3. Example: he has a difficult time not running. All the time. On the way to church last week, I kindly reminded him that we must walk at church; running and playing tag with his friends in the main room before his class started would be a poor choice (as it would inevitably lead to injuries or broken electronics). He remembered…for a little while. But as soon as he picked up his heels, I took one glance at him, picked him up and plopped him on a chair. He didn’t make a peep but solemnly agreed. He knew we had made a deal and patiently waited until the time-out was up.
It was a beautiful thing: he was not upset, and I was not upset. We moved on with our morning.
Admittedly it doesn’t always turn out that way—but the extra effort to have a little talk is definitely worth it more times than not.
I changed the original language in this post so that it included more “do’s” and fewer “don’t’s” because sometimes we get stuck constantly telling our kids “no.” Looking for more positive alternatives? Read more about positive behavior words.
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