Today we are going to discuss the appropriate way to give consequences.
Before starting, I want to express to you that consequences are a necessary part of parenting; however, should be a very small part of parenting.
I know a number of parenting programs out there that focus solely on consequences. That is all they care about and some parents are looking to do only that one thing. I understand this, but I also know the parents who enroll in my programs are looking for something further. One of the most common comments we get is that parents tell us they do not need to punish their children anymore.
This is because when you work through relationships, you set up situations with your child so that the good behavior is going to happen automatically. You no longer need consequences. This should be your parenting goal.
However, there will inevitably be a need for consequences.
This is how you should deliver the consequences. First of all, whatever punishment or consequence you had should be an outgrowth of the behavior. It should be related to the behavior. Second and above all, the end of the consequence, if it is time related, should be related to the improvement of the behavior.
Let me clarify what I mean in an example. I will use my own personal experience, as I still have problems with my three children at times.
Yesterday, my young son rode his bicycle without wearing his helmet, even though he had just been told to wear his helmet. He told me that he forgot, which is very common for kids to say.
As a result, one consequence would be to say, “okay, so you rode your bike without your helmet on, you are not going to get dessert tonight.” The problem is that this in no way related to riding a bicycle, and is therefore not an appropriate consequence.
A more appropriate consequence, which is what we did, is to say, “okay, you rode without your helmet, then you can’t ride your bicycle for a five days”. That is a better way of giving consequences because the consequence is related to the behavior.
An even better way is to relate the lifting of the consequence, not the five days, but to say until the child shows you that he/she can behave properly. For example, the child did not ride his bicycle with his helmet on, so he cannot ride his bicycle until he shows you for three days that he can listen and be responsible.
We, as parents, have to define what that means. So for him it means listening the first time, not talking back, going to be without an argument, or whatever other types of things we want him to show he is listening to his parents.
This way you tie the consequence not only into the incident that happened to cause the consequence, which is what consequence really means, but you also tie in the lifting of the consequence with the improvement in the behavior you are looking to instill.
It should be specific. It should be something the child understands, can do, and be measurable. Not talking back for three days is a great example. Once the child talks back, he loses, but he understands what not talking back means.
It should not be that the child behaves good for three days, this is too vague. It has to be concrete and measurable.