I heard my wife say, “Next time you dig your elbows into me ….” And the words “next time” rung like a bell in my head. Now my son was just getting up from the couch, and he has this habit of using his elbows to push himself up. I don’t really know how that’s even possible, but that’s at least what it feels like. The old elbow to the ‘most sensitive part of your body’ – all at the crack of dawn.
And here’s the thing. In our house – there is always a next time. He’ll do it again. And I pick this example because it’s not like he’s hitting his brother with a hockey stick. It’s not that egregious. We’ll come back to this point in a minute.
So, if we combine all of our "next times" then it' probably a pretty big number. And kids learn this. They learn that for some simple things, it’s just a warning – and they probably want to do better – but memories man. Short. So what to do about all these ‘next times’?
Let’s take it to the extreme and see what we come up with. If the rule is always - 100% - never fail - never ambiguous - then kids will automatically know what happens when they hit someone or do something wrong - and that's great for us as parents. If I had a scenario like that, I could just kick back and have a beer, because the parenting is self-sustaining at that point. Right? When our kid messes up, then as parents we can just say, sorry you know that time out is coming (back to that not-reacting thing earlier). And in this case - "non-parenting is good". If they know a specific reaction is coming, we can go on autopilot. What it’s doing here is putting kids in control of their behavior. (Right? They know the next step in this … we hardly have to parent!)
And the reason I give an example of the elbows in the belly is because the punishment doesn't have to be harsh, (punishment might even be a wrong word here) but it should be consistent. And that's really really hard. There’s no one writing books on it, because it sucks. But I think it’s worth it to try and become a ‘non-parenting’ parent. For my kids to know the reaction coming to their action.
What’s one area you could be more consistent in? If your "consistency" is just you and your partner getting on the same page - great. If it's using potty words - great. Ours is getting those elbows out of our bellies.