Adults love to give kids warnings when a rule is broken and would love to believe warnings are a highly compassionate method of parenting, a reflection of our loving and kind humanity. But guess what? Warnings may be the farthest thing from true compassion. Though almost always well-intentioned, warnings will routinely backfire.
Here are the main reasons why:
1. Inconsistency. If mom is having a great day, she may give the child a handful of warnings. If she is having a crummy day, she may give few, if any, warnings to the child. This inconsistency leads the child to question the seriousness of the rules. A rule is apparently not really a rule.
2. Energy. Any way you slice it, a warning is still energy and more specifically, it is the energy of You. Children are drawn to obtaining the most significant connection with important people in their lives, and annoying mom while she’s on the phone can be a ready-made inroad to strong connection.
3. Confusion. Warnings are very confusing to children. We can state that our rules are clear all day long, but clarity can only be conveyed, as in sports, by way of exceedingly clear lines and limits, in conjunction with very clear and unenergized consequences. Warnings muddy that water in a hurry.
4. Ambiguity. Rules like “be nice,” “be respectful,” and “be polite” look good on paper, but their vagueness sets up the adult for failure. If the rule is “be respectful,” at what point does the child have his foot on the line? At what point is the rule officially broken? With rules like these, we’re unable to have the requisite clarity needed to fully avoid warnings. Uncertainty reigns, and so do warnings and fuzzy boundaries that ultimately disservice everyone.
5. False Compassion. I have seen kind and loving parents come to have a tyrant on their hands, born out of the confusion and false compassion that accompanies warnings. In some unfortunate situations, the child becomes physically or emotionally handicapped, and the parent’s heart goes out to their child—it seems to make sense to cut the child slack by the way of warnings. However, what their child needs even more than ever is clarity by way of absolute rules and consequences. Clarity is greatly compassionate.
The very best way for a parent or a teacher to achieve clarity is to exit the arena of warnings entirely and enact a new plan of immediate “resets” and no warnings.
When your child breaks a rule, you do two things. 1) Say “reset” without emotion or explanation of what the offense was—trust that your child already knows. 2) Simply unplug the gift of you. For the period of the reset, you are fully unavailable. You are resetting You as well.
Once your child sees she can no longer get You for negative behavior – she only receives a simple reset – and once your child sees that you are only available for all that is positive, an enormous shift will take place in the way the child pours her intensity into great choices.