Can’t Tumble In A Princess Costume? A Lesson In Consequences

Once you’ve tried to get a pistachio out of your son’s nose after you’ve spent a good five minutes explaining why food doesn’t go in your nostril, you start to think to yourself: I suck at explaining.  (You don’t go all the way to I suck at parenting because for God’s sake, you aren’t morbid or overly-dramatic. You know how to rein it in.)

When it got too irritating to have offered such cogent explanations only to have my children proceed with their chosen courses of action, I decided to do an experiment. I’ma teach my kids about consequences. 

Consequences became my silent battle cry. 

I started keeping my explanations short– it might be messy if you poop in the tub or eating Mommy’s lipstick means you would have any to use next time you want to look “fancy.”  I resolved to let them learn lessons they apparently needed to learn the hard way.

Then, I heard my name called over the loudspeaker at gymnastics.

At first, I was sure that Sadie had crushed her clavicle trying to do a head stand or that Simon had taken a bite out of one of the instructors, since that’s his new thing.  I spotted one of the instructors holding Sadie’s hand as they headed towards me.

“Do you have other clothes for Sadie?”

“I don’t,” I said, remembering that the only things in the stroller were Goldfish crumbs and squeezy applesauce packets.

“Well, she can’t do gymnastics in her princess costume. It’s dangerous because she keeps tripping on the skirt.”

Can't get your Mary Lou Retton on in this get up? Image credit:

Can’t get your Mary Lou Retton on in this get up? Image credit:

I looked at Sadie who was trying to hide behind the teacher’s leg.  I had mentioned to Sadie that trying to tumble in a princess costume would be a problem, but she insisted.  I’d eschewed the power struggle and told her as long as she wears some leggings or shorts under the dress I’d let her prove me wrong. 


The teacher kept apologizing to me as if I was the one who had my heart set on my daughter wearing a princess costume to her gymnastics class.  “Believe me, I think this is all turning out perfectly,” I assured her.

A mother sitting nearby offered Sadie an outfit from the inventory in her stroller, which included whole grain bagels, almond vegan cheese, and a leotard!  I helped Sadie get into her borrowed duds and stuffed the princess dress on top of the snack crumbs.   I watched her do her thing out on the mats, wearing a stranger’s clothes and waving at me after every “cartwheel.”

I wondered if my approach to consequences was right.  Thing is, I won’t know until Friday when it’s time to suit up again for gymnastics.  I’m not sure what I’ll do if she insists on wearing something impractical, like a miniature ball gown made of cheap tulle.  I think I’ll offer her a friendly reminder about last week’s “situation” and then pack a spare leotard next to the snacks.

I still suck at explaining, but I’m getting good at consequences.



41 thoughts on “Can’t Tumble In A Princess Costume? A Lesson In Consequences

  1. love this and like I said on your Facebook, I’d probably do the same with Lovie (and actually i’m kind of shocked she hasn’t asked to wear her damn princess dresses out of the house- i’m thankful but shocked). they gotta learn somehow.

    • How else? I am not absorbing all the consequences any more. She’s a big girl. She knows. Now I just have to be mortified that my daughter has a slew of princess costumes, but that’s another story.

      On Tue, Jul 16, 2013 at 11:56 AM, Outlaw Mama

  2. Smart mama! This must be one of those natural consequences everyone always tells me about! Now, who are these moms with the extra leotards? We had same thing happen with Rhys – not a princess costume but a too long dress. Another mom offered her shorts and a t-shirt from her magical Mary Poppins purse. Amazing. Rhys only wears short dresses and shorts to gymnastics now. Progress!! Great post!

  3. I am that one with the magical purse. I over-pack/prepare for everything. BUT last weekend I purposely withheld an extra pair of shorts from a boy whose mother was clearly trying to teach him a lesson (he refused to bring his bathing suit for the water bc he said he didn’t want to go it, but then of course he did) and now I wonder if I did the right thing. Maybe I should have just given the poor kid some shorts. I’m still learning consequences myself it seems!

  4. Yes, sometimes they do indeed have to learn the hard lessons. There is nothing at all wrong with your explanation skills. It’s just that toddlers do not excel in comprehension skills. I think you are doing consequences just fine, lady. 🙂

  5. Almond vegan cheese?
    Anyway, I’m glad that Mom had some extra clothes (organic cotton, I hope!) for Sadie. I think it’s great that you let her learn that lesson. And I loved your first paragraph! Your posts always make me laugh.

  6. Oh how I remember this phase of wanting to wear the princess dresses everywhere. You did the right thing. And rest assured, this phase WILL pass, and then you will be arguing, er, explaining, to your daughter why 8 year olds don’t need to wear one-shoulder, off-the-shoulder, neon, zebra-print, see-through tops that look like something 20-year olds wear to nightclubs. Trashy 20-year olds. Ugh.

  7. Speaking as a former “strong-willed” child, let me just say, YOU’RE DOING THE RIGHT THING. Trust me, after one freezing afternoon in San Francisco without the sweater my mother told me to bring, I learned to listen to her after that.
    Consequences, my friend.

  8. Truth! (About consequences.) Isn’t it funny how the list of backup items grows exponentially with the consequences? 😉

  9. Brought me back to my days in gymnastics. I remember fighting my mom on issues of practicality like that in elementary school. I think your lesson will stick, but you never know. Good luck! I hope the next outfit is easier to tumble in than the princess dress =)

  10. I only have boys so this has never happened to me. But I think it’s great for them to learn from their mistakes. And if Sadie could pull off a beam dismount in a princess dress, she’s even more awesome than Nadia!

  11. I suck at consequences because its all laced with my attitude of “why can’t you just do as I say!”

    I’m lucky that my kid, though stubborn and always right, is a sucker for The Rules as long as I didn’t set them. So at least I can fall back on that. Maybe tell her the gun teacher called you today to remind Sadie to dress appoleopriately and she’ll feel less inclined to disobey her? It doesn’t help YOU necessarily, but it does reinforce that rules are sometimes external ones we can’t control.

      • First of all, that was supposed to say gym teacher, not gun teacher. Good grief, iPhone!

        Second, I have half the universe in cahoots with me to lie to my kid about alleged rules. I also used to say that there were signs prohibiting certain behavior (you have to obey a sign, right?). Now he can read, so that doesn’t work, but hey, do what you can as long as you can 🙂

  12. Oh, how I am starting to relate to this. My daughter wants to wear her fancy princess dresses all the time, and it’s nearly impossible to get her to understand why she can’t. I’m also working on teaching her about the consequences of her actions, but I’m not finding much luck there either.

  13. This gives me hope. My husband and I are beginning the process of adopting older children, and I know we’re going to be thrown into the deep end of the parenting pool without floaties. I look at parents and think, “Man, they have it together. I’ll never be like that. Maybe I shouldn’t adopt at all.” Reading this helped me see that the process really is trial and error. Good for you for being proactive, and for making me laugh too. Total bonus!

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