When my twins were small, I used to belong to the Moms of Twins & Triplets Club, and at one meeting we had a child psychologist speak, who gave us some good tips on how to help children behave. One particular piece of advice he imparted was to employ two little words: “if” and “then.” If you wanted to make your child comply or if they were pestering you, parents were instructed to say something like, “If you put your toys away, then we can go to the park.” Or “If you quit whining, then I will listen to you.”
Those little words worked like magic and staved off a lot of conflict. They even worked personally. Many times over the years, I’ve told myself things like, “If you go to the gym, then you can come home and read.”
While those words are a pair of gems, I think there are several other phrases that would be helpful to use and the first is “What then?” It seems that a week doesn’t go by without a video going viral of someone doing something ridiculously stupid or of people doing something foolish or risky. Take for instance selfies. Taking pictures of yourself with your cell and placing yourself in jeopardy is widespread. So much so that Wikipedia has a “List of Selfie-Related Injuries or Deaths” entry, which compiles the enormous number of people who have been harmed or died while taking their picture.
In 2014, the U.S. Department of Transportation estimated that 33,000 people alone were injured while taking a photo of themselves while driving. That doesn’t take into account those who fell off cliffs, were swept out to sea, or fell off moving trains while taking their picture.
But it’s not only selfies. It seems these days very few people ask themselves, “What then?” before doing something. Life comes with risk, but when it comes to risky behavior or thinking about the results of those actions, it seems that some people ignore the possible consequences. We even see it in our elected leaders. Do they ever consider that when they release convicted inmates early on to the street, or choose to not prosecute them, that it’s not surprising that crime skyrockets.
When my youngest was in grade school, they taught him this little jingle: Pause, Reflect, Show Some Respect. Our society values and promotes action. We all know the phrases, Just do it or It’s go time. Looking back on some of the mistakes I’ve made, many of them could have been avoided if I’d paused. Maybe we’d be better off if we encouraged people to pause, think about what we are about to do, and follow that to its likely conclusion by asking What then? In so doing, we’d create less trouble for ourselves and society.
By: Janice Lane Palko