WARNINGS are not a consequence for misbehavior…I’m warning you!
There are times when a simple warning or cautious reminder is appropriate as a response to a minor undesirable or even a moderate misbehavior:
“Hey, remember you need to keep your hands to yourself or I will ask you to put your toys away.”
”I’m just reminding you if you throw your fork, you will not get your dessert”
In this way, warnings can be effective as reminders of consequences to follow continued misbehavior.
However, warnings themselves are not consequences.
The power of a warning comes from its association (i.e. experience your kid has) with the delivery of another specific consequence following the warning. Whether it is the loss of a toy, removal from a fun activity, or some other consequence you have already determined (hopefully), the effect of your warnings will be a direct result of how predictive the warning is of the consequence.
What does that mean?
It simply means if you want your warnings to be effective as a “hey, don’t do that again” tool following some misbehavior, your kid needs to have experience with the fact that the consequence is the next thing coming down the line. The only way they will learn this is through experience.
Follow these guidelines:
1. Warnings should occur one time before delivering the actual consequence. This helps with the connection. “Stop or I will say to stop again,” comes to mind. We have talked before about the whole “I’m counting to 5” nonsense, so this should not be news. Therefore, if you make a warning, you better be ready to follow through. If you are not, figure something else to do instead.
2. Please, do not make your warnings in question form, “do you want me to take those trains away?” Stop it. You sound ridiculous. What do you expect them to say?
3. All warnings should be stated in an unemotional tone of voice simply as a reminder of the consequence.
4. Finally, but maybe most importantly, warnings are more effective when paired with positive consequences that can be earned for changing the behavior to a positive one. For example,
“Remember, if you keep your hands to yourself, you can play with your Little Ms Martini Barbie, but if you hit your friends, we will have to put them away.”
(I made the Barbie thing up, sorry).
Use every chance you can to praise and bring attention to the behavior you want so you will not have to rely on the warning or negative consequence. That is much harder.
PLEASE do not warn your kid about a consequence you have no intention of delivering. That is a veiled threat…and will create more misbehavior than it solves.
Don’t say I never warned you.