4 steps for consequences that work

Have you ever felt so frustrated you give your kids random consequences like, "You're grounded for the next 2 months!" or "No tv for the next week"? I'll be the first to admit I was guilty of this and I'm wondering if you can relate. Discovering consequences that work can be hard, but there is an underlying process that I coach parents through that gives them more control in these situation. Here's four steps I offer to my clients and I'm hoping they'll help you too! 1. Discover their "why"

There are times our kids are driving us nuts and we just need them to do what we told them to do. I ask parents to take a minute, step back and see if they can figure out why their child is acting up or not listening.

Misbehavior is usually due to 4 things:

  • A need for more attention

  • An attempt to gain control or power

  • A lack of understanding of what is expected

  • A desire to assert their independence

2. Give consequences that make sense

There are 2 types of consequences and using the appropriate one will help in your child's learning process. Natural consequences happen without your intervention. Let's say you reminded your child to put his bike in the garage because it might rain and he chooses not to on multiple occasions. Eventually his bike may get rained on and begin to rust, leaving him with a bike that no longer looks new and shiny. Lesson learned: I need to take better care of my things.

Logical consequences are consequences you set in motion. What's the key to making logical consequences work? They have to be directly tied to the behavior. Here's an example from a recent client of mine. Becky told her 16-year-old that he could start driving himself to and from school with the understanding that he may not go anywhere else because he's a new driver. She warned him that if he chose to disobey, then he would lose his driving privileges for two weeks. A month into this agreement, Sam decides to drive some friends down to the local taco place and his mom finds out. Sam is forced to hand over the car keys and for the next two weeks he has to walk to school. Sam's consequence (losing the use of the car for 2 weeks) was a result of a poor choice he made with the car. Of course, another consequence is the loss of trust Becky had in Sam. This will take time to repair and I gave Becky some steps to take during that process.

3. Be Proactive One of the best ways for parents to avoid the battles that typically follow disciplinary issues is to be proactive. Make it very clear what your expectations are and what the consequences will be ahead of time, then your kids can make an informed decision regarding their behavior choices. In the example above, Becky made it very clear what would happen and Sam understood her rules. The beauty of being proactive is that it gives your child the power to make informed choices. It also it takes you out of the formula. The phrase I give to parents to use is: You chose the behavior, you chose the consequence.