Disciplining children: sometimes you have to go home

I relearned an important lesson this week: with kids, sometimes you have to follow through on all those threatened consequences.

If you keep telling them you’re going to turn the car around if they don’t behave, and never actually turn the car around when they continue to act like… well, children, they will learn that the car isn’t going to get turned around no matter what they do.

This may seem obvious. It’s straight from the parenting 101 books that I failed to read when I first started taking this experiential course in child-rearing a dozen years ago.

But, I’ve been told lately that I’m not very good at this whole follow through thing.

It’s not like I go around making threats to my kids. It’s just that sometimes they act like insane little monsters, and the fear of sanctions is the only way I can think of to get them to behave. So, threats happen.

Take, for instance, a dinner out I had on a recent night with two of our kids and their grandparents. My wife was out of town with our two middle kids visiting her sister, so I had responsibility for our 5-year-old boy and 12-your-old daughter for the week. My parents, fresh back from a summer trip to Michigan and Canada, called and asked if we wanted to have dinner at a neat little seafood place.

Sure, I figured. Why not?

What I didn’t figure was that after a week with his father’s later bedtimes and lack of disciplinary follow-through the 5-year-old boy would be primed and ready for his worst restaurant behaviour in recent memory.

Usually, with his middle sisters around, he just blends into our family’s typical restaurant commotion and acts kid-like but within acceptable parameters. Continue reading

  • Cort Ruddy is a writer, husband and father of four living in Upstate New York.
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