Every directive that is made must be followed completely through by the adult. This is a must. If a directive is not followed through, the child will come to an understanding that they only have to follow directives part of the time. For this reason, it is important that the parents pick and choose their battles. Can you imagine a rambunctious child being redirected by a parent for everything that he has done wrong in a 10 minute interval? That child would be given 10 or 20 directives and the parent would then have to follow through on every directive, insuring that every directive is carried out and a consequence has followed. Then if the overzealous parent only followed through on 5 of the 20 directives, the child would learn that he only has to comply 5 out of every 20 times.
Conversely, if the parent only gives directives that he knows he can follow through on, the child soon learns that all directives must be complied with or consequences will ensue. This principle, when established, is a parent’s ace in the hole. It establishes a mega-rule that a child must follow a parent’s directive at all times. It is impossible to establish a rule for every situation, but if a child understands that all parental directives will be followed through then the parent can give a directive outside of established rules.
Jeremiah and his mother were in the Doctor’s waiting room. Jeremiah jumped on the couch. His mother told him to stop. Jeremiah sat on the chair for about three seconds and then he started wiggling. His mother told him to sit still. Jeremiah sat still but started making popping noises with his mouth. His mother told him to stop. Jeremiah started crawling and touching all of the black tile on the floor. His mother told him to stop. Jeremiah ran behind the nurse’s station. His mother told him to stop. Jeremiah had gotten used to hearing the word “stop.” Jeremiah did not listen.
Doug and his mother were in the Doctor’s waiting room. Doug began to feel restless. Doug’s mother knew he would be restless. In her mind she constructed a threshold of allowable and unallowable behaviors. She then informed Doug about the threshold. “Doug,” she said, “you cannot yell and you cannot get out of your seat.” Doug made sucking noises with his mouth. Doug turned upside down and looked at the ceiling. Doug bounced on the chair. Doug sang to himself. Doug decided to run behind the nurse’s station. He got up and began to take off. When he left his seat, his mother told him to stop. It was the first time he had heard a directive all hour. The word “stop” got his attention. He stopped.