I remember being in the grocery store with a full trolley cart of food and saying those exact words to my children. But you know we have perfect children and they stayed right by my side just like I asked. Not! They ran off and I was furious. Why? Two reasons: one, because they were disobedient and were pushing on the boundaries I had set. I thought they should know better. But the second reason was because I had said if you don’t stay with me then we will leave the store and go home. That meant I had to swallow the consequences of my words to them. So I left the full trolley of groceries and I took the children home.
In setting boundaries for your children you need to inform them. They need to be very clear that they have heard what you are saying. We started this process early with the children with simple commands such as ‘no, don’t touch that!’ However your words mean nothing to a child unless they are backed with action. You need to decide on an appropriate response to your child’s disobedience. You are training them and yes, training does take work. So if you have told your child not to touch something and the little hand goes out to touch it, say in a firm voice, not yelling or in anger but deliberate, I said, ‘No, don’t touch!’ If the child doesn’t respond correctly then you will have to remove them from the object saying in a firm voice and a matching look on you face that agrees with your words, ‘I said NO, don’t touch!’ You don’t have to display anger, just an appropriate “look” that the child will know you mean business.
After training your children in this way you may only need to look at them and they will know that what they are doing is not in order. That is why so many children will respond to just a look because they know that “the look” means business!
Finally all of this training will only be effective if it is done consistently. Your words and your actions have to continually be put into action. If you say ‘no’ one time to an action and then say nothing the next time it happens, your child will get the message that you don’t really meant what you say. Consistency will enforce in your child’s mind that the boundaries you have set are firm.
So, back to my friend who said to his child ‘if you run off, we are going home’. Yes, he was a man of his word and picked up his son who started kicking and screaming and secured him in his car seat and drove home. Do you think this was a popular move? Even one the father desired? Not likely! However, the next time they go to the park and he is told not to run off, chances are he will stay. What if he runs off again? Then back into the car seat and home he will go until the child gets that what is said is what will happen.
Children will internalize the training when you consistently put into action what you said. This will make your life at home as a family easier. To my friend and to all those who are consistently working with their children, I say, ‘Bravo – well done!’