One dad had a brave story to tell of how to let his young son make decisions and live with the consequences. It was a bit nerve racking but this dad did it!
I got to use the skills in the car ride home, after I had asked my son, 4 years old, if he needed to go potty before we left an event we were at. He said no, as usual. But 500 feet after leaving in the van, he said he had to go potty really bad.
This was a challenging moment to work in some natural consequences. I wondered if I was willing to clean up the mess if he didn't make it – realistically, about 20 minutes. It would have not been much hassle to turn around and let him go in the church restrooms.
Staying calm, I told him I'd look for a place that he could go potty, but that there were none around and he'd probably have to hold it. I gave him some words of encouragement. "You can do it, pal." I did this a couple times, but mainly practiced my brain dead responses to his painful squawks, which were designed to communicate this was it! …That he just couldn't hold it anymore!
I certainly was feeling empathy for him. Man, that's not comfortable. But this is a pattern for him. He loves to say he doesn't have to go and gets himself into these situations.
It was an interesting 20 minutes. He made it just fine. It was good for me not to get sucked into his drama, and drive calmly toward home. I really don't know if he learned a lesson this time, but I'm sure in those harrowing moments, or in the bathroom at home, some thoughts fired.
When we helicopter our kids when they make poor decisions (not going to the bathroom) the kids really don't learn any decision making skills when we allow them to change their minds at the drop of a hat (turning the car around). I don't want you to think this is harsh, it works the same if your kid says they aren't cold and won't take a coat with them or they aren't hungry when dinner comes. As long as the situation isn't life threatening (unaffordable) we as parents need to restraint from making our kids lives perfect just because we know better.