Other parents think in terms of punishment. These two authors, who conduct workshops on parenting, suggest that punishment may create feelings of hatred, revenge, defiance, guilt, unworthiness, and self-pity and they explore other ways to handle situations. Let me give some of their examples:
Before going to the store with a child you might have a rehearsal at home in a “pretend” store with props. A parent might include the child in making a list in words or pictures of groceries that he would be in charge of finding and putting in the basket.
When you are at the store, you might say, “”It would be helpful if you picked out three big oranges for us.”
And when Billy runs in the store, rather than saying, “If I catch you running again you’ll get a spanking at home, “ you might say, “Billy, no running. Here are your choices: You can walk or you can sit in the car. You decide.” Then you need to follow up when he runs with, “I see you decided to sit in the car.”
The next time you go to the store, it might be good to leave Billy home. When he asks, “Why?” you might say, “You tell me why.” Billy puts his head down and says, “Because I ran in the store? Give me another chance.” The recommended answer: “There will be other chances, Billy. Today I am going by myself.”
These authors said that a common problem brought up in their seminars was how to get children to come home right after school. Here is the thinking of a child named Bobby: “I like to play after school with my friends in the school playground. I know I’m supposed to be home by 5:45 but sometimes I forget. Yesterday and the day before, I came home late. My mother was so mad at me that today I made sure to ask my friend the time. I didn’t want my mother to scream at me like that again. My friend told me that it was 6:15. I stopped playing right away and ran all the way home. I explained to my mother that I did remember to ask the time, but it was already too late, and I ran home as fast as I could.”
So how could a parent handle this one. Would anger work? Would just accepting the situation work? These authors said both ideas would not be effective. Here is what they suggested that the parent say, “You’re telling me you made an effort and I’m glad to hear it. But I’m still upset. I don’t want to have to go through that kind of worry again. I expect when you say that you’ll be home at 5:45, that I’ll be able to count on it. We’ve eaten already. There’s no more chicken left, but if you like, you can make yourself a sandwich.”
If this doesn’t work, they recommended that you take time to (1) talk about the child’s feelings and needs; (2) talk about your feelings and needs; (3) brainstorm together to find a mutually agreeable solution; (4) write down all ideas; (5) decide which suggestions you like. Then role-play the situation so the child understands.
These experts feel strongly that natural consequences can be very effective.