First, then statements can help clean up messy situations.
This blog post is an excerpt from the new ebook Expand Your Parenting Toolbox: Create a More Peaceful Home which can be purchased on Amazon.com.
Have your days ever been filled with whines, cries, and complaints? Do you ever feel like you may lose your temper and shout, hit, or go hide while eating some chocolate bars? I think all parents have moments of frustration. After all, we cannot control others 24/7. We are bound to have differences of opinion or differences in priorities from others in our lives, including our children.
The good news is that there are peaceful parenting tools that we can use when working through disagreements and conflicting priorities. One of these tools is using first, then statements. A first, then statement is a basic statement that is clear and guides you or others through immediate goals or events. It is important to follow the steps below when creating your statement. A well thought out statement can work wonders.
Keys to a First, Then Statement:
- Think it through. There is no shame or harm in thinking about it before proceeding with a statement and solution.
- Be sure the statement follows a logical thought pattern regarding why the first issue must be resolved in order to proceed to the second issue (which is often getting the next thing the child wants or needs).
- Be clear and make the statement short.
- Repeat if necessary.
- Answer questions as is necessary, but stay on topic.
- Do not attach a punishment.
- Help with the task if necessary. It is okay to be your child’s partner or ally. You can always back up and help less, or not at all, as the child learns to help and follow through.
Below are a few examples of first, then statements in use.
“I wanna go to play lego blocks right nowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww, moooooom!”
“First we must clean up the marbles, then we will have room to play with the lego blocks.”
“Whyyyyyyy do we need space to do that?”
“If we put the legos beside the marbles, we won’t have enough room to sit and build plus we may step on a toy and get hurt. Do you remember how much you cried when you stepped on a lego last week?”
“Oh, yeh, okay. Time to clean up the marbles. Watch how fast I can clean!”
“I don’t want to go to the store!”
“I hear you. I don’t want to go, either, but if we stay home we won’t have food to eat next week.”
“Well that’s okay with me!”
“First we have to pick up groceries, then we will have all afternoon to play with toys and computer games. If we stand here and spend a lot of time complaining, then there will be less time for toys and computer games. First grocery shopping, then home to play.”
“I don’t like it, but I will do it. I want to play later and we DO need food.”
“Okay, how can I help you get ready?”
“I have to brush my teeth, then I will be ready. I can do it by myself.”
“Park days suck!”
“First we have to get ready to go to park day, then we will see our friends.”
“Oh, right, my friends said they would be back again this week. I don’t feel like getting dressed plus I want to stay home and read, but I also want to see my friends and run.”
“So what should we do?”
“We should get ready for park day and play! I can stay in my pajamas and read on Saturday, instead.”
While these are only examples and do not scale the entire range of possibilities, you are able to get a flavor for the first, then statement parenting tool. If your family has a specific issue that comes up often or if you have any other questions, do not hesitate to contact me via comments or email. I am happy to incorporate your everyday concerns into blog posts or help you brainstorm in private.