Treat one time events for what they are…one time events. Reactive parenting often creates more opportunities to be reactive (i.e., more bad behavior).
I recently read a book, Anything You Want, by Derek Sivers (a guy who turned a little hobby of selling music online to a business generating $100 million in sales and ultimately a $22 million payday for Sivers). He made a point about not punishing a group at large (customers) due to the bad behavior of one person or a weird one time event. For emphasis, he mentioned two examples of when over-the-top changes were made as ridiculous reactions to a single event: his elementary school banned grape juice at the school after a single spill (and later banned orange juice for the same reason) and the need to take our shoes off at the airport due to the infamous “shoe bombing.” These stories and his point made me think of how that relates to parents in so many ways (of course)…
Has there ever been a time when you “banned the grape juice” at your house. It might not have been grape juice that spilled, but might have been something that your kid misused or even an activity that went wrong and you effectively “banned” it? Have you taken your children to a special place and things just did not go right and you pledged “never go there again?” Have you ever treated a child to something special and it blew up in your face and you vowed to avoid using that treat again because it “didn’t work?” Have you ever gotten a note home from the teacher about a “new behavior” and excessively worried about it and made reactive changes because of it?
I believe this happens and it is important to realize it when it does so you can avoid the pitfalls associated with these types of reactive decisions.
The lesson here is a general one, but a thinker sort of lesson: avoid over-reacting to any one particular behavior or circumstance within which a behavior occurred. This includes when your kid hits another kid at school, bites the neighbor, throws a huge hissy-fit at the shoe store, or says something like, “I hate you,” “I hate school” or drops the F-bomb.
These are all common things that kids do and there is rarely a need to over think these things and worry about making changes due to one of these things happening.
I am not saying they need to be ignored, but I am saying there is generally nothing to worry about. Be aware: let her teachers know you are concerned, let his coach know you have talked to him about kicking the ball instead of the other kids, let the neighbor know that her cat will be safe in the future, and then move on. Lock it away in your parent brain, be prepared the next time similar situations present themselves, talk to your kids about it at the times when the situations are likely to occur again (the closer to the event as possible, the better) and use it as a teaching experience. No need to expend too much energy on these events or try to heavily punish them “so it will never happen again.”
The good news about behavior is that there are very few things that are learned after one experience (taste aversion is one…I bet you can think of something you had a single bad experience with and have not touched since). This should give you some relief when it comes to making the decision NOT to make a decision about something until later.
Give yourself the the benefit of time and thought before making decisions to “take away the Nintendo” for a month or to “never go out for ice cream again!” Give yourself the advantage of “sound body and mind” when making these decisions rather than the reactive and emotional decisions we can sometimes make.
Sometimes you will find that making no decision is the best decision of them all.