Summer is almost here, yippee. So is swimming, running at the pool, wild behavior near the edge of the pool, more running at the pool, and potentially horrible accidents. Yippee, summer is almost here! Oh my.
Since pool behavior can be life threatening, punishing has to be the only way to make the point that you. do. not. run. at. the. pool. Right?
A Waste of Time
When it comes to young kids, ages 3-10, yelling the rules across the pool is a waste of time. So is giving them a timeout to teach them about the rules. Sitting on the sidelines only serves to remind a child that they aren’t in the pool. And that causes them to become more and more emotional, or determined to ignore you while they do their time so they can get back into the pool. Neither yelling or timeout teaches your child what you want them to do instead of what they’ve done.
I suggest an action plan that gives your child something to be aware of so (s)he knows it’s time to stop and pay attention. Once you have her attention you can instruct her on what you want her to do instead.
Many, many kids ignore their parent(s) when they say NO! And since pools can be life threatening, as well as the best fun in the whole wide world, you need a word or a signal that rises above the NO! and causes your child to stop, look, and listen to you. That word is “FREEZE!”
Does “FREEZE!” really have the power to get your child’s attention?
Many years ago, after a Thanksgiving dinner, I decided to test the power of the word “FREEZE!” My kids have always consented to being my guinea pigs when it comes to parenting, so I knew they wouldn’t be surprised when I did this. As they were talking, laughing, and doing dishes, I yelled “FREEZE!” For a couple of seconds they froze and then said, “What did we do?” I said, “Nothing. I was testing to see if “FREEZE!” worked after all these years?” They laughed and said, “Yes, it worked. And you freaked us out. We thought we did something and had to stop, look, and listen.” It absolutely still worked. They still knew to stop and become aware when and if they ever heard the word “FREEZE!”.
You can try a similar experiment with your family, too. Wait until your kids are playing, and not paying attention to you at all. Walk into the room and yell “FREEZE!” loudly and firmly. You’ll see that for a second or two your child does just that, freezes. That word commands attention, as long as you don’t over use it. Save the word for times when you really need it, otherwise your child will come to ignore “FREEZE!” like they ignore your NO!
Here’s what the conversation sounds like.
Mom: “FREEZE!” We NEVER play near the edge of the pool.”
M: “I know you were scared when I yelled NO! I was scared too. Let’s have a hug, and then we can talk.”
Instead of lecturing about the dangers of running at the pool, or pushing someone in, begin asking questions. This shifts your child’s brain from being upset for getting in trouble, to thinking a bit more logically.
M: “Where are you not allowed to play or push someone?”
C: “Near the edge.”
M: “How are you supposed to behave around the water’s edge?”
C: “Supposed to walk.”
M: “Is there a place where you are allowed to fool around and pretend push each other?”
C: “Only in the pool.”
M: “You need to have a seat beside me for 5 minutes to calm down and then we talk again.”
Time for Learning
M: “Now, you need to get up and show me how you’re supposed to walk when you’re near the edge of the pool. And you need to walk around the pool 5 times so I can see that you understand.”
M: Thank you for showing me how to walk around the edge of the pool. Now, it’s time to practice listening. You can go play in the pool, AND when you hear the word “FREEZE!”, or me whistling, or me blowing the whistle, you need to stop moving, stop talking, and listen.
I’m going to do this 5 times, so get ready, and put your listening ears on. (Let the kids play and then every 2 minutes blow the whistle so they learn to stop, look and listen)
There’s nothing easy about this for a young child. Kids have to get calm, process language, process the details of what you’re asking them to do, control their feelings, sequence in their mind the action you’ve requested, answer thinking questions, repeatedly show you what’s meant by following the rules, and apply something different from now on. That’s a lot of complex learning.
This way of correcting behavior is what I call a mindful parenting authority.
What makes it mindful?
• You’re connecting before correcting, which keeps you and your child calmer.
• The correction is happening in the moment, which makes it relatable to the child.
• You’re responding by teaching, versus reacting by yelling, even though the situation is potentially life threatening.
When you use a mindful parenting authority it’s easier to create a true situational natural consequence that can be enforced with empathy, love, and guidance.
After reading all of that, which way do you think a younger child will learn the most?
By being yelled at and given a timeout?
By having something taken away?
Or by learning what to do instead and having that teaching reinforced through repetition?
I think by now you know which way I’d recommend.
For details of how to create true natural, mindful consequences while being calm and supportive, check out the age related packages, and other support products at proactiveparenting.NET/store.
Have a safe and memorable Summer.
Now, go hug your kids!