Consequences Suck

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As Max gets closer to 4, his terrible twos and traumatic threes have joined forces to come on in full force. In the last few months, he's thrown his first mall tantrum (you know the one, belly on floor in the middle of the food court, feet and fists flailing. I wouldn't let him have chocolate milk and he was pissed. I was that mom. We all get a turn, right?)

So anyway, consequences.

Today in the car, on our way home, Max and I were chatting like always. We spend a good hour in the car getting home, even longer when the weather is crappy like it was today. We got into a back-and-forth, as we often do.

“You're silly!”

“No, YOU'RE silly!”

“No, YOU'RE silly!”

and so it goes until we both laughing (or I crash the car, whichever comes first. (I'm kidding Mom, I'd never crash!))

And then today:

Me: “No, YOU ARE SILLY!” punctuated with random, admittedly annoying sound effects.

Max: “No, you're STUPID!”

Me: Jaw meet floor.

The only punishment I could come up with was to turn off the music, so after a I stern through-the-rear-view-mirror admonishment, I turned the radio off and we continued on in silence. I thought that sucked, but I was wrong. (He got an additional “talking to” at home, and then apologized to me)

Fast forward to bedtime. Max got a bunch (I mean, a BUNCH) of Thomas sets for Christmas, and he and Jamie had spent several hours assembling them all into one giant setup, in Max's bedroom. After going to bed like a champ for so long, Max has recently taken to getting out of bed, turning the light on and playing for however long… we've found him choo chooing away at all hours. The threat has always been that we'd put the trains away, but it always worked to get him back to bed.

One night, when Jamie was out of town last week, just my picking up one piece of track resulted in a massive meltdown, and I admittedly wussed out. (My sister, if she's reading this, is shaking her head at me. I know it.)

Well, I told him again tonight, turn your lights on to play, and the tracks are gone.

*SPOILER ALERT* He totally got up and played with his tracks.

So I did it. I put the entire track away. I feel awful, especially for Jamie who spent so much time assembling it. Max is wailing away up there, that his trains are gone. So like I said, consequences suck.

But here's my question for you: Did I do wrong? Now that Max is quieting down, I'm wondering if I messed up. I was already annoyed and hurt, from the Stupid thing earlier, so I'm wondering if that's why I finally followed through on a threat that's been made a dozen times before. Or should I just have followed through the first time we threatened it? I'm torn. What's done is done, and we'll go over this all again tomorrow, but I'm curious: What would you have done?

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  1. You did right. If you had not followed through it would be even harder to get him to listen in the future. I have learned though to always think before I threaten something. In the past I have threatened something massively big compared to what they were doing bad and then didn’t follow through because I knew it was ridiculous. But the bad thing there is they then thought I was a pushover who wouldn’t actually do as she said. Not I threaten appropriately and I follow through. It is working. Slowly but surely 🙂

    (I don’t think what you threatened was out of proportion though. You took away the thing that he was disobeying you for.)

    1. Yeah… the articles and everything always stress making the consequence (or the bribe, in the other way! LOL) equal to what’s in question… trying!

  2. This morning, my teen refused to get out of bed for school. He was up too late (again) on his computer and too tired to get up. 5 minutes before he was supposed to walk out the door, I told him that if he missed the bus (again) his computer privileges would be gone for a week.

    His response? “You always threaten, but you never do it.” His computer is packed away in a box in my closet for now.

    You did right. Very right. He will continue to test you and you have to be strong. I used to be the parent who didn’t want to make my children upset or worse – I didn’t want them to not like me! Over the years I’ve learned that my children and I actually get along better and have more fun together when I do follow through and enforce consequences. It gives the structure and boundaries that they are not able to establish themselves as children.

    And remember – you’re building the foundation now for those trying teen years. Make it strong!

    1. Thanks so much! It sucks sometimes, this Mom thing! But I know it’ll be worth it eventually, right? Right?!?!?! 🙂

  3. Cole would have lost his track too for that. We went through that with him as well. He’d pull out ALL of the toys in his room in the middle of the night to play. Mike and I ended up tripping over the entire stepped Trofast unit worth of bins in our room, had a garbage bag full of stuffies in our closet, and Cole had almost nothing left. What was left was downstairs. That was a week. It was a combo of that and refusing to clean up ever. You did right.

  4. I think you handled both situations well. Taking away the trains is a logical consequence to his actions. He needs sleep more than he needs Thomas.

    I’m rather jealous that you only recently had your first mall tantrum. Klaw is really good at them & he’s not quite 2. I usually take pictures or video because that’s what bloggers do, right?

    1. We know we’re lucky! He’s been pretty low maintenance his whole life (once he got out of the NICU! LOL) We say that he got all of his drama out in those first 91 days, so he owed us easy!
      This tempermental thing is new for us!

  5. 1. You totally did fine. It is hard for nice, kind, loving, people to follow through on setting limits on others, but in a parent-child relationship it is totally appropriate.

    For the future…
    2. Only make threats you are willing to follow through on.

    3. Don’t make threats that punish yourself — i.e. if you’ve been looking forward to getting together with your friend and her kids for lunch at the park for ages, and you tell him “throw sand one more time and we’re leaving” you are setting yourself up to punish yourself for his testing behavior. If he throws the sand, you’ve got to leave; but that hurts you and your friend. A better consequence in that instance is “throw sand one more time and you have to sit here under the table for 5 minutes until you’ve calmed down. You may not play until you can play nicely.”

    In our house “stupid” is on the list of bad words, along with “dumb.”

    4. Calm but firm. Loving and listening whenever possible.

    There’s many ways to deal with it, and all can be overdone. Sometimes we talk too much, sometimes too little. “How to talk so your kids will listen, and listen so your kids will talk.” is an EXCELLENT book full of suggestions that just add tools to your toolbox. Not all will work all the time, but it helps to have more tools. “I understand you want that milkshake. Milkshakes are yummy. Today your body needs more healthy food. I love you so I’m only allowing you to eat healthy food. It looks like you need a hug.”

    Other things are “final no” or “After we get home we will come up with a way for you to earn a milkshake.” After the age of 4, in our house it was “If you cry, you will not get what you want.”


    1. Thanks so much! You’re always one of my most constructive commenters!

      I think we might steal your age 4 rule… that’s an issue, and it drives me crazy! My problem is saying no when I don’t think that “I said so” is a good enough reason. (This is true in all aspects of my life, not just parenting!)

  6. You did right. Agreed. You have to follow through. It stinks, but we have to do it. It’s the only way they learn. Sigh. Parenting is so ugh sometimes!

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