One of the joys of teaching children is that there are so many ways for them to learn the same lesson. For example, if your children are running around at the supermarket while you’re shopping and you want them to stop there are many different ways you can effect that change.
Option #1: You can stop shopping and take them home (and then dinner is limited to whatever is available at home)
Option #2: You can do what so many parents do… reprimand their children in the market (complete with yelling and threatening)
Option #3: You can do something completely unexpected
One example of doing the unexpected – a friend of mine’s son and daughter (ages 6 and 8) were running up and down the grocery store aisle playing a game of tag.
After repeatedly asking them to stop she called them over and made an odd request. My friend explained to her kids that she wanted them to block off the aisle in front and behind her so no one could get through.
When they asked why and she said, ”You guys are having so much fun playing that I want a turn! I’ve always wanted to sing, ‘The Hills are Alive’ from the musical ‘The Sound of Music’ and I need you stop everyone who passes so that they can be my audience.”
Naturally, both children were horrified and desperately begged their mother, “PLEASE DON’T SING!!” My very clever friend explained to them that if they were going to play at the supermarket then it had to be okay for her to play as well.
Well played … well played.
Both children were well behaved for the remainder of the shopping trip and it set the stage for her to have a discussion with them on the way home about the appropriateness of their behavior in the store.
We often repeat the same old reprimands and punishments with our children to discipline them. This means that they become able to predict what we will do and, as they grow, they may decide that the consequence is a cost worth paying for their misbehavior.
Unexpected but relevant consequences let children know that we are always thinking of new ways to use consequences to teach. Not to mention it’s WAY more fun and we parents need to get our thrills where we can!