When the urge to say “I told you so” comes on strong, remember this phrase. It’s kinder and much more effective for teaching the lesson you wanted to communicate in the first place.
Mornings had become a real struggle.
Instead of my darling Kindergartner bounding out of bed ready to take on the day, she did not want to wake up. Then, when she was up, she did not want to get dressed.
Or put on her shoes.
Or move an inch of her body
Or do anything that I wanted her to flipping to do to get ready for school.
She had started out strong, getting herself ready each morning. Then the newness of school wore off, and then we were in a painful power battle each morning to see if she’d get dressed in time to eat breakfast before bounding off for the day.
I had tried all things.
I used my super chipper mom voice. I praised her for any action she made towards our morning goals. I read her stories while she pretended to be too sick to move her arms. I sang songs. I prayed. All in all, I did everything but let her be until she decided to do it – or not – on her own.
So one morning, towards the end of the school year, I’d had enough. There were lunches to be made, baby diapers to change, and I could no longer sit and watch my daughter not get ready for school.
I said very kindly, “You now have 20 minutes before daddy is taking you to school. If you don’t get dressed, he’ll take you in your pajamas. If you aren’t at the table in time to eat, you will miss breakfast.”
I looked her in the eyes, gave her a genuinely warm smile, kissed her head, and went on about my business.
It’s a Hard Lesson
It’s hard for us, mamas. We attempt to teach our children self-regulation, problem-solving skills, and good values. We say things like, “The oven is hot, if you touch it you’ll burn your finger,” and just expect our kids to do what we say.
We can tell our children the wall is hard and they can listen. Or they can bang their head against it and find out on their own. One of these options sounds best to us. The other seems more adventurous to a child.
And why would children rather test things out on their own?
Because they are primarily emotional beings. Adults work out of logic, children do not.
Children think that puddle looks deep, I’ll jump in it!
Children think the candy tastes good, I’ll eat the whole pack!
Children think their brother’s toy looks fun, they’ll swipe it!
And what happens when our children do exactly what we’ve told them not to do, and a negative result happens? We want to say…
“See, I told you!”
I told you that puddle would make you soaking wet.
I told you all that candy would give you a tummy ache.
I told you your brother would retaliate.
Saying “I told you so” does one thing: it proves we were right. While this may be satisfying to us, moms who teach their children right from wrong all day, it misses opportunity for a greater lesson to be learned… for our children to learn from their choices.
Instead of telling our kids we were right, let’s help them understand cause and effect. Instead of using the phrase, “I told you so” which simply tells our children their exploration and boundary testing was wrong, use this fun slightly-sarcastic-yet-not-really-phrase…
“Oh, you found out?…”
“Oh, you found out that jumping in a puddle will get your clothes all muddy?”
“Oh, you found out that eating a whole pack of gummy worms will give you a bad tummy?”
“Oh, you found out that stealing your brother’s toy means he will come after you?”
We are not reframing the situation to prove our own wisdom, but to help children learn cause and effect. By teaching both cause and effect and natural and logical consequences, we are giving a gift they’ll use throughout their entire life. We are also putting the consequence of their action squarely on their shoulders.
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Where it needs to be.
I went about my business that morning, making the school lunch, and getting myself ready. I informed my husband he may be dropping our daughter off to school, not in her uniform, but in her pajamas and crazy hair. He seemed surprised. We have 5 kids, I’m not sure how anything surprises him.
She remained in her room a while, sitting on the floor bemoaning her fate. I understood, playing at home is more fun than school.
Then, just as it was time to leave, she threw on her clothes and ran downstairs. I did her hair quickly and it was time to go. She sat down at the table to eat her cereal and her dad said, “There’s no time to eat, we have to go now.” She couldn’t decide if she was angry, sad, or outraged.
I looked at my precious little girl and said, “You found out mommy was serious. If you don’t get your morning routine done in time, you miss breakfast, but you still go to school. You found out stalling doesn’t work.”
It was a big sigh she gave me, then a big smile, then a big hug.
She learned that lesson.
And we haven’t had any morning problems since.