This post is way past due! I read this good article on parenting just before the baby was born and there were a couple of points that have since resurfaced in my mind multiple times.
First of all, the idea of teaching only once.
This really hit home to me simply because I am a talker. In many situations my mouth sometimes doesn't know when to stop moving. :-) Parenting not excluded! The article clarified why talking too much at our children doesn't work. Tibbets actually argues that all it really does is make our kids think they're stupid for not "getting it the first time."
This also changed my viewpoint on the term "natural consequences." Yes, sometimes there are consequences that "fit the crime", i.e. steal a candy bar, go pay for it. However, I think that the what the consequence is doesn't matter so much as the consistency in which it is used.
So, in my efforts to talk less and simply issue the consequences with consistency, I made a list of "Go-To Consequences" (not attached to any particular offence):
1. Run # of laps around the park
2. Write # of sentences (i.e. "I will speak kindly to my sister")
3. Pull # of/section of weeds outside
4. Copy a page from the dictionary
With this list, I can more calmly choose a consequence in the moment rather than thinking, "What should I do now? I don't know. I can't think of anything that fits the crime! Agh! What should I do?" . . . and then start yelling instead. :-) We'll see how it works.
The second idea from the article that I thought was brilliant: Expect them to fail. Duh! That sounds so simple. But how many of us parents really do just that? Yes, we are taught to have high expectations for our children and to look at their strengths, but this is different. How many times are we asked to do something new or challenging and get it right the first time? By expecting our kids to fail, we are really preparing ourselves to be proactive rather than reactive when our kids "mess up."
Here's an example. Years ago I had a daughter who was quite obsessed with the Lord's name being said inappropriately. She never said it herself, but I could see that when she said, "Oh my gosh!" she was really thinking the other word in her head. I remember thinking to myself, "One of these days she is going to slip." Well, a week or two later she was running through the kitchen, stepped on a tack and yelled .... you know what (we all know how bad it kills to step on a tack!). Being prepared for it, I didn't overreact in the moment. However, my husband, who was not prepared for this slip up, had an instant reaction and went a bit crazy! :-) This just illustrates to me that if we are prepared for our kids to mess up sometimes, we aren't as shocked when they actually do and can calmly handle the situation.
It's the same idea with a baby that wakes up in the middle of the night. When I go to bed hoping he will sleep until morning, I'm really grumpy when he doesn't. When I go to bed ready to wake up in a couple of hours, I'm not surprised or reactionary when I hear his cries as expected. So, it's not that we're setting our kids up for failure, it's just a mental preparation on our part to handle the situation with more care; thus teaching our children with love rather than anger, insult or overreactive disappointment.
These two ideas, expecting them to fail and teaching only once, have really helped me to be less reactionary with my kids. Nagging, yelling, and criticizing have subsided. Also reading this article by Lynn G. Robbins, my perspective on how I parent & teach my children has changed...and I think (hope) I'm improving. :-)