When I hear parents in the mall giving long-winded explanations to their child as to why s/he should not eat or do something, I sometimes wonder. The explanation is long and it sounds terribly sensible and reasonable.
But not to a young child of three or four years! In fact, it goes over their heads. Can you imagine if the child has ADHD with all the distractions he or she has to cope with? Yelling and shouting might have been more effective but I am joking of course!
Why giving consequences is a long-term investment
This is where giving consequences come in. Once we start giving them consequences and do it consistently, then we are really laying the groundwork for them to become responsible adults. This will help them to mature, to be able to control their instinctive urges and to get along with everybody at school and in relationships with siblings and so on.
How do you explain consequences to a three-year-old?
The first thing to do is show them examples of consequences of your own actions. If you do not cook, the family goes hungry. If you talk loudly on the bus, people will treat you badly. If you are always punctual at work and finish projects on time, the consequences will be more money and even promotion. There are lots of examples we can give.
Writing everything down
Let us say that established a few simple consequences for when our kids start biting or hitting. We can write these on the noticeboard. Consequences can be no PlayStation, no television or an earlier bedtime and so on. We should also make sure that rewards for good behavior are also prominent on the list so that there is more emphasis on the good behavior in an ideal situation.
The consequences are there in black and white so when it happens, there is no need for long explanations. Just point to the notice and give the consequence. This has to be done immediately. If the child overreacts and has a meltdown, you will have to make sure that he or she has some time out in a safe environment. You may want to take time out too!
You are set up and ready to go
Once these are in place, you can be confident in applying them consistently. If you start to waver or get emotional, then the child will spot the chink in your armor and exploit it for all it is worth.
It is also wise to make sure that all the family is fully briefed and that older sibling and both parents are all on the same page. The last thing we want is that there is a good cop and bad cop parenting attitude especially when one of the parents is at work or away from home.