As parents, how many times have we said the following?
“If you do it again…”
“The next time that you do that…”
“I’m warning you…”
We often use warnings to identify unwanted behaviors or behaviors that need to be corrected. Pragmatically, it provides a chance for the child or adolescent to shift their behavior or stop an unwanted or disrespectful behavior. As parents, we are hopeful that the warning will stop the behavior. Often, it does in the moment. However, what about those times when it is only a short term correction? The child or adolescent continues the behavior soon after or the next day and the next day.
If our warnings are effective, then they help a child shift or change behavior in the immediate sense and internalize the need to change the behavior. However, if warnings do not assist in changing behavior by gradually decreasing the frequency, then the warning is not a terribly effective tool by itself. In that case, either additional strategies or consequences are needed. Additional strategies may include engaging the child in positive practice such as ‘tell me how you can state that with more respect’; ‘show me how you would compromise in this situation as opposed to yelling at your sister’; ‘let’s try that again and with more appropriate behavior this time’. Or, you may consider implementing a natural or appropriate consequence for a behavior that needs to be decreased or ceased.
Being mindful of our parenting practices and their level of effectiveness in actually changing behavior is an important component of effective behavior management.