By Lavern Nissley
How we talk to our children when they've gone off the rails makes all the difference in the world. A simple piece of advice from a police officer turned author of books on parenting strong willed children: Just write the ticket! Want to know what Cynthia Tobias meant by that?
"We had a rule in the police department. When you pulled over a violator when they were speeding or they had a violation, you did one of two things. You either wrote them a ticket or you gave them a lecture and left them off with a warning."
Cynthia explains the dynamics: "If you were gonna give them a ticket, you couldn’t give them a warning, too. They didn’t have to listen to a lecture ‘cause they’re getting a ticket. If you’re not gonna give them a ticket, then they have to listen to the lecture ‘cause they’re not getting a ticket, so they gotta endure a lecture, but you can’t do both."
Unfortunately, we as parents tend to write too few tickets and give way too many warnings. Think about it. What would the impact on your driving the speed limit be if you were stopped 10 times for speeding and you always got a warning, but no ticket. You might even be able to endure the 10 warnings:
Sometimes the best thing we can do as parents is simply and calmly write the ticket (enforce the consequences). But no lecture. No screaming or questioning or venting. Just write the ticket.
Cynthia concludes with these insights, as a strong willed child herself: "Write me the ticket. Just write me the ticket, and could we move on? I did the wrong thing. I know that. Write me the ticket. I pay the fine. I might get another ticket a couple more times before I stop doing it, but stop yelling at me. The yelling has no effect whatsoever except to alienate me."
If you are a parent seeking behavior change in a child, think about this advice from a former cop and just write the ticket.
Lavern & Ronda Nissley are co-directors of Encompass. Married since 1978, both enjoy coffee, riding their tandem bicycle and working together to build strong relationships.