Do you struggle with letting consequences play out naturally? This post is for you. Really, your kids don’t need you to make them feel better. Post contains affiliate links.
The morning started much like any other. One baby in a high chair, the other three kids on their stools eating oatmeal laced with cocoa powder. As I was getting ready to make our morning smoothies, my 4 year old said this.
“Mom, I said give me a smoothie. Now!”
Not to be outdone, my 3 year old son joined in.
“Yes, mom. Give it to us now!”
Lest you imagine they used a kind tone, they did not.
In a previous life my blood would have boiled and I would’ve needed a shot of Diet Coke to remain cool. But I’m becoming a calm mom and their attitudes are no longer an anger trigger for me. As they kept demanding the smoothie they’re used to and commented how it was taking too long making the baby’s food, I paused. I calmly told them they are not allowed to use that tone with me and, because they were so rude…
“No smoothie today. Maybe tomorrow you’ll ask me politely?”
That went over like the Grinch stealing Christmas.
There was flailing, screaming, weeping, and gnashing of teeth. Choruses of “that’s not fair” and “you can’t do that.” They were mad. But I don’t mind one bit when my kids get mad in response to a boundary. Why?
Because feeling better isn’t the goal. Learning the lesson is the goal.
Emotions have phases
If our kids react negatively to a consequence or situation, we don’t always need to intervene. Especially if their behavior is a result of something they did (or didn’t do). If you say “you can’t play at your friend’s tonight because your weekly chores aren’t done” and they throw a fit, your intervention is counterproductive.
Interruption of The Feeling Process, as I have just named it, works against you. The following four phases occur after you’ve done (or not done) something that brings Big Emotions and surges of disappoinment.
Phase 1: All that matters is The Feeling. I don’t care why or what or how, just leave me alone because I am ticked.
Phase 2: The Feeling is still going strong, but logic (subjective to person) is starting to kick in. I kinda get why this happened, but I’m still ticked.
Phase 3: The Feeling has changed from disappointment to anger. I know why mom won’t let me do that and she’s right, but I’ll show her and I don’t care.
Phase 4: The Feeling is fading and they want to move on. Yes, okay fine, mom was right and that was probably not a good thing to do anyway.
The reason you don’t need to jump in with comfort, substitutions or diversions too early is you derail the natural progression to Phase 4. This is why time out by the minute doesn’t work.
Talk when Calm
If you burst in the room for a heart to heart during Phase 1, 2 ,or 3 while your child is under the spell of The Feeling, you’ll both get more worked up. You’ll be tempted to do something to make them feel better. Okay no smoothie, but here’s three Pop Tarts. See? Feel better?
When your child has (subconsciously) gone through the phases of The Feeling and has calmed down is the time to talk.
“The reason you don’t get a smoothie today is because you used a rude tone with me repeatedly. You know that’s not respectful or acceptable, so you lost your smoothie privilege. Maybe tomorrow you’ll make a better choice.”
No shame, no lecturing, no evil looks or mean talk from mom. Just the cold hard facts of life. The Ninja is off duty until tomorrow.
Feelings are neutral, don’t make them bad
One reason moms want to jump in and make their kids feel better (in the moment) is because we hate seeing our kids disappointed or upset. We want to offer alternatives, substitutes, or diversions so they don’t have to think about what’s happening. We just want them to calm down. But we need to remind ourselves of something important. I think it’ll help our days run smoother as well.
Meltdowns are a part of childhood.
Feelings are indicators of what’s happening so there’s no need to avoid them. In fact, if you consistently try to stop your child from feeling sad or disappointed, they won’t learn how to process their emotions. You want your kids to tell you how they really feel and have healthy emotional responses. To do that they need to feel their emotions, then make sense of them afterwards. With your help.
Let them learn the lesson
“Oh, yes, you’re right mom. Can we please have our smoothie?”
“Yes, yes, yes, yes. Now please.”
This immediately after I revoked smoothie privileges. I could have taken it back and given them the smoothie. They did say please, after all. But this disrespectful talk had been building. If I would have shared my smoothie with them since they asked nicely, they’d have forgotten why they didn’t get one in the first place. If I had relented, they would have done it again the next day.
I know this because it had happened every morning for the past 3 days. Really, enough was enough.
So I let them break down. I didn’t lose it, yell, or tell them to be quiet. I let them both go through the Feeling Process right there on their kitchen stools. And then the floor. Afterwards, I calmly explained why they can’t speak to me in that tone of voice. It was rude and disrespectful. The smoothie debacle was forgotten in ten minutes.
Until the next day…
Bread was in the toaster oven the next morning when my 4 year old daughter brightly said, “Mommy, can we have a smoothie please?”
My 3 year old son turned to her and said, “Sissy, that was so polite. I know mommy would love to give us a smoothie today!”
Yes, kids, yes I would.
If you’re feeling frazzled at home with small children and aren’t sure where to start, I’ve written a book on routines. It takes all the guesswork out of what, how, and when. It’s written for moms with kids newborn to 5 years old. Hope this helps.
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