The Happy Warning Trick

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Every other week I get to pick up my two older kids from my previous marriage at school for their weekend with dad.  It’s a wonderful time for us because no matter how they may have been behaved the last time they were with me or how they may have been acting earlier that week with their mom, when I pick them up, they get a clean slate.

The moment of instant reconnection with my children is a terrific opportunity for a great divorced dad trick that is highly effective in deterring bad behavior during the weekends that they will be with you.  I call this tip the Happy Warning Trick.

The Happy Warning Trick consists of hugging and kissing your kids when you first see them again.  You tell them how much you love them and might even tickle or joke with them.  You mention any fun things they can expect with you that weekend and once you are all happy and smiling, you take one moment to let them know you have something serious to tell them.  Once you have their attention, you pull your kids close to you and tell them that you expect great behavior and immediate obedience from them while they’re with you or it will result in instant punishment or loss of privileges.  (Right now my son Jonathan hates to lose the right to play with his brand new Nintendo DS so I specifically warn him that if he has to get punished I will swiftly take his DS away).

After I’ve give my kids the happy punishment warning, I ask them  to look me in the eyes and tell me if they acknowledge the strict ground rules that I just laid down for them.  In typical kid nature, they say “yep.”

This pre-emptive, anti-punishment strategy is highly effective for me.  I use it to reduce the number of tantrums, arguments and sibling fights  that would normally ensue from most kids their ages and I believe it works because I deliberately tell them everything with extreme love and seriousness while everyone’s in a good listening and loving mood.

Like most things that I want my kids to remember I do this EVERY TIME I see them.  Repetition and consistency is key.  This is especially important for children of divorced dads because its normal and inevitable that the household rules are different at your ex-wife’s and your house.  Warning your kids of punishments when they’ve done absolutely nothing to deserve that type of conversation may sound extreme but it works.  It is the best way to get your kids to agree to practically any ground rule you want to set.  It’s also easier for them to listen to you because when kids are angry they are much less likely to pay attention to you.

I use the Happy Warning Trick to prevent bad behavior long before it happens.  What tricks do you have for that?

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