A Warning About Warnings

dad coach parenting parenting help parenting teens Jan 16, 2024
A Warning About Warnings - Ann Kaplan Parent Coach

A Warning About Warnings - In my Dads' Group last week, one of my clients was troubleshooting a tricky situation with his teenage daughter. This kiddo needs to start working with a counselor for many reasons but doesn't want to go. In addition to explaining to her why it's important and that he loves her and is responsible for her health, he also warns her that this is a boundary for him. If she chooses not to go, she will miss out on certain privileges…But she still refuses.

A Warning About Warnings

In our group call, he asked me what I thought about his plan to give warnings and hints and how many more times he should warn her. Here's a quick sound bite about warnings: They don't work. 

Warnings are a form of verbal discipline, but kids learn primarily through experiences and modeling, not talking.

You've probably heard me say the 'Experiences and Modeling' spiel before. But what often gets lost about good ole' E and M is this: 

Your child is consistently having experiences, and you are always modeling.

Verbal discipline DOES teach your child because while you are verbally disciplining, you are modeling and creating experiences for your child, teaching them that:

  • Nothing is going to happen around the choice I've made
  • Talking to my parent is coercive and pressuring,
  • (and when things escalate, they learn: My parent is scary and unsafe)

They're not learning the thing you're saying (which is about their behavior). They're learning the experience they're having (which is about your relationship). This is why warnings don't accomplish what we hope they will, degrade our relationships, and the impact of each successive warning becomes less and less. So sad!

Connection vs. Coercion

When I work with parents, I teach them how to set and enforce boundaries with their children in ways that preserve and strengthen their relationship with their children. And I teach them how to use their words for connection instead of coercion. The result is a strong relationship, cooperative kids, and respect on both sides. So, in this dad's case, he can hold and enforce his boundary with love instead of just vaguely foreshadowing it. It is beautiful. 

Ready to see how?

Set up your free Discovery Call, and I'll show you. Share your challenges, and tell me how you want parenting to be. I'll help you see what needs to change, show you how to make it happen, and we'll figure out what kind of work you want to do to get there.

P.S. Remember! It's not too late to join the beta version of the Dad's Group! All this month, I'm offering special founder's pricing and benefits to new group members, and it all starts with a Discovery Call where I learn about your family and parenting goals and help you decide if the group is right for you. If you're a dad looking to parent with confidence and independence, to take initiative to manage your child's behavior, and to create a healthy parent-child relationship, you belong with us!  

P.P.S. You may be wondering, like this dad did, whether warnings really count as verbal discipline since the tone and temperament could be kind and loving. The answer is yes. Because we are trying to change a child's behavior with words, our warnings are a form of verbal discipline, just like lots of other verbal things we try as parents, even though they don't work very well and feel yucky (yelling, begging, pleading, repeating ourselves, whining, negotiating, threatening, coercing, etc.) It's all verbal discipline, and it's all problematic, unfortunately.

Learn more about group parent coaching here. 

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