We had a playdate yesterday at the home of one of Chickie's good friends, who we'll call Billy. (Billy's mom is one of my good friends too, so we get together a lot!) After lunch, Chickie and Billy got in a little tiff, and Billy's mom sent them both to the couch for time out.
Chickie got up, grabbed some toys, and went back to her time out seat. Billy's mom took them away, making it clear that it's not okay to play with toys during time out. When she left the room, Chickie got more toys. (I think this may have happened more than once.) When I heard Billy's mom taking the toys away again, I said, "Chickie, we're leaving."
And all heck broke loose. Chickie immediately embarked on one of those awful preschooler tantrums, screaming and crying and asking repeatedly for "just one more chance!!!"
I realized that things would have gone much more smoothly if I'd given her a warning. ("Chickie, you have a choice. You can stay in time out without toys, and when time out is over we'll play a few more minutes. Or you can grab those toys again, and we'll go straight home.") She probably would have obeyed. I would have made it clear that I was serious, and she wouldn't have been so surprised by her consequences that she launched into that awful tantrum.
So I was left at that crossroads that we parents encounter not-too-infrequently. I hadn't made the best choice when setting a consequence, and I had to decide whether to change that consequence, or stick to my guns.
There are times when I threaten something and then, realizing I wasn't being reasonable, change what I said. I want my kids to admit when they've done something wrong. So it makes sense for me to admit it too. "Chickie," I might say, "I got angrier than I should have. You're not grounded all day; you're just grounded from the TV until lunchtime."
But this wasn't one of those times. Chickie wasn't respecting our rules, and the rules of the house we were visiting, and she repeatedly made the same bad choice. Knowing my daughter, I probably could have made the process go more smoothly, but it really wasn't an unfair consequence. I'm the mom, and it is my job to decide when it's time to go. When one of my kids is being disobedient, it's okay for me to say it's time to leave.
The biggest reason I didn't want to change my mind, though, was because of Chickie's tantrum. I didn't want to respond to her in a way that validated her screaming. She's still learning to handle her emotions; I understand that. One way she learns is by seeing that tantrums don't result in her getting her own way.
I definitely don't have a perfect grasp of when to change my mind, and when to stick to my original words. There are times when I give in and shouldn't, and probably times when I determinedly follow through when extra grace would have been more appropriate.
I'd love to hear the input of other parents reading this. Do you ever "change the rules" when you realize you weren't being as reasonable as you could have been? How do you decide when to back down, and when to stand strong?