Yesterday I talked about not threatening to leave your child at my remote office (McDonald’s)—and an excellent piece of advice we received from our early mentors: Say only what you mean. Think back over the past few days. How many times did you give a command to your little one that you didn’t really care whether he obeyed or not? How many times did you tell him to do something that you did not follow through on?

These are things like when you are waiting in line at the grocery and he wanders a few feet away from you to look at the candy, and you say, “Come right back here and stand next to me.” Why? I mean, do you mean that? Does it matter if he is two feet from you looking at the candy (assuming he has learned not to take any or touch things that are not his)? If you don’t care if he is two feet from you and you are not going to make him do it anyway, why say it?

Or how about the old, “If you do that one more time, we are going to go home” or “…we are not going to Grandma’s,” or “…you are going to bed”? Do we mean that? Will we really take Johnny home if he stands up in the booth one more time? Then don’t say it!

There are so many commands that we give our kids that we simply do not mean. They either aren’t that important to us or we do not have the backbone to follow through on them if they are not obeyed. In these instances, we would be better off not saying anything at all.

When we give these empty commands, we are really training our kids to disregard our instruction. We are essentially training them to disobey.

In the past month or so, here are some classics I have heard at “my office”:

–“If you scream one more time, we are leaving.” (Followed by scream after scream, of course!)

–“If you don’t come right now, we’re not going to Grandma’s.”

–“If you don’t come right now, we’re not going to the park—but we’re going home to take naps instead.”

–“Don’t climb on that display.” “Get off of that display.” “Don’t stand on that display.” “Don’t climb on that display.” (over and over and over and over….)

–“Come here right now” (followed by a cat and mouse chase that had to be absolutely humiliating to that dad doing the chasing…)

Two tips for implementing this “say what you mean” parenting strategy:

(1) Do not give commands that really don’t matter. I mean, honestly, does your child HAVE to stand with his arms down at his side? We have a tendency to focus on outward behaviors—some of which have no bearing on our child’s important behavior or heart training. When we do this, we teach our child that all behaviors are equal. That standing just so is as important as not talking back or running from us when we call.

(2) Do not give commands of which you are not willing or able to follow through. When you tell your child to do something, be sure you mean it. Be sure it is important enough to warrant a command—and important enough to be sure it is followed.

More child training tips to follow—thanks for joining us at Positive Parenting 365!

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