Thursday, July 18, 2013

Warning vs. Threats

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Have you ever said, “Is that a warning or a threat?”  It can be a snide little question but it is packed with meaning.

Warnings clarify what is about to happen.  If “A” occurs, “B” will follow.  Threats are simply words made to possibly scare a person into action.  Warnings are followed by consequences while threats rarely do.  
Often times threats are followed by more threats and loaded with frustration and exaggeration.  Many times they end in an explosion of anger.  The problem is that warnings take action and threats allow you to be lazy. 

Here is a classic example:  Mom says, “Joey sit down.”  Joey doesn’t sit down.  Mom says, “Joey, sit down right now or you are going to be in trouble.”  Joey doesn’t sit down.  Mom says, “Joey, I said sit down.  Don’t make me come over there.”  Joey doesn’t sit down.  Mom says, “Joey, sit down or I am going to put you in time out.”  Joey doesn’t sit down.  Mom says, “Joey, I’ve had it.  You are grounded for a week.”

It seems funny and outrageous but we all are guilty of falling into the trap of threats. 

Clear warnings are much more effective and keep the blood pressure of parents down to a normal rate.  When giving a warning, be sure to obtain and keep eye contact with the child.  Speak calmly but with a firm tone.  Next, make sure that the instructions are understood.  Choose a specific, age-appropriate consequence and let the child know exactly what will occur if he or she chooses not to obey.  Lastly, praise obedience or follow through with the discipline.

Here is an example using the same scenario:  Mom says, “Joey, please sit down. “  Joey doesn’t sit down.  Mom says, “Joey, I have asked you to sit down.  If you don’t sit down, you will _____.”

The goal is that after a while warnings will no longer be needed.  The child will learn that you mean what you say and that obedience is the best choice. 

When do you struggle with warnings and threats?

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