Making Life Easier with Pre-Activity Warnings

By Joey & Carla Link

September 27, 2023

We were at a playground with a large pond this summer with several other families. We watched anxious mothers with preschoolers try to keep their little ones from wading into the pond. Older kids were running around playing a game, not paying attention to where they were going and one kid ran over a couple sitting on a blanket and then ran off.

This boy’s parents saw it happen, but didn’t do anything about it. They were inadvertently training him to do whatever he wanted to do for as long as he wanted to do it until someone in authority intervened and made him stop. Had it been our son we would have asked him if he apologized to the couple and if he hadn’t, we would have had him sit to get his heart to the point he wanted to. Then he would have lost the freedom to be with his friends for a little bit or the rest of the afternoon, depending on his age and characterization.

What’s a pre-activity warning? A pre-activity warning is the use of questions to ask your kids how they should behave before you get somewhere. When our kids were growing up, we used pre-activity warnings on our way to church, the store, the park and anywhere else we went.

· Pre-activity warnings work best when your kids know your expectations and they are characterized by obedience.

· Pre-activity warnings are not times for lectures. You are getting them to remember the rules for themselves, not lecturing them before they have gotten into trouble.

· Your tone needs to be calm so they don’t think they are in trouble.

· Ask questions. “We are going to the hospital to see Grandma. Since Gram is so sick, how do you think you should act in her room? If you are unsure, what can you do? (Ask Mom)

· It is a 2-way conversation. Ask questions and wait for their answers.

· If they don’t give you a right response, keep asking them questions until they do.

· Pre-activity warnings work for young children too. When our young grandchildren are visiting, before we leave the house to go to the park nearby we ask them what the “Park Rules” are. They will tell us they must hold our hands until we tell them they can run and play. If they are riding their bikes, they will tell us they must stay on the sidewalk where we can see them and they can’t cross a street without our permission. Keep your rules simple.

Pre-activity warnings eliminate chaos wherever you go. Instead of correction and consequences your kids get the blessing of praise and encouragement because when they know what to do, they usually will do it.

“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are old they will not leave it.”

Proverbs 22:6 NLT