How do you retreat without your child thinking they've won?

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How do you retreat without your child thinking they've won

A retreat realistically means that your child will 'win' and this is something to avoid in order to have consistent boundaries. The more you can keep to agreed rules and consequences the more likely you are to affect a long term change in behaviour. However, sometimes there are other factors that mean that tackling the issue now is not something you can do.


One strategy is to acknowledge the conflict and try reaching a compromise.
'I can see that you are upset as you were really enjoying your game. I will give you an extra ten minutes of play only but then we need to go home'
(Children often struggle with time concepts so you may need to give countdown reminders.)
If you threaten unenforceable or disproportional consequences you are going to have to 'back pedal' on what you've said. It is often better to say that there will be a consequence but not specify what that will be. This gives you time to reflect on it so that you can choose something that you can enforce.
'If you don't do what I've asked you to do there is going to be a consequence.'

(child) What?

'All you need to know is that will be a consequence and I think about what later.'
You need to ensure that there is a consequence 100% of the time so that they learn that when you say a consequence you really mean it. Remember it is not severity of the consequence that is important it is the certainty that it will happen.
One way of reducing the need to retreat is to try to plan ahead when going to be in places and other situations where you may have difficulty dealing immediately with behaviour. Prepare the child with reminders of your expectations and that there will be a consequence later if they let you down. Again do not specify what the consequence will be or when and where it will be given. This maximises the options open to you.
'You got a bit silly at Sam's party and it all ended in tears, didn't it? I'm going to stay and help at Alex's party. If you misbehave there's going to be a consequence.'
Try to identify contexts when your child demonstrates poor behaviour so that you can either avoid these or prepare your child. Be very specific about the behaviour so they understand exactly what they can and cannot do. Sometimes sorting behaviours can help or consider using a social story.


For children who struggle with transitions always give a countdown in advance. This helps your child process the transition so they don't get overwhelmed when suddenly confronted with the demand to change.

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You may be interested in the following pages:

Do Doing Done Board

Emotional Regulation

PDA Management

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