Choosing consequences can be tricky. You may sometimes wonder whether you’re doing a good job or causing more problems. Below are some things to keep in mind as you contemplate suitable consequences:
- Are you feeling angry about your child’s activity or behavior? If so, pause and take a personal break so you can clear your head. Consequences are usually most appropriate when they are not set in the heat of the moment.
- Listen to your child’s side of things fully and without interrupting.
- Repeat back what you think you heard (active listening).
- Let your child clarify anything they think you misunderstood.
- Repeat it back again to ensure you fully understand.
- Calmly ask questions to get to the root of why it happened and how your child feels about it now.
- Consider whether your child was being naïve, misinformed, got in over their head accidentally or if they were being defiant. Attitude matters.
- Consider your child’s age and whether or not this has happened before.
- Ask your child what they think would be an appropriate consequence.
- Consider what would be a “natural” consequence. Often parents take away devices for everything. Not the best plan. If your child is misusing devices or not adhering to agreements around them, adjusting their use of a device makes sense. If they are slamming doors or throwing things, the removal of their door or toys would make sense. Do your best to choose a consequence that relates to the offense.
If your child’s behavior causes you to feel disrespected, embarrassed or offended, talk honestly about that. Share with them how you feel and why. That’s how they learn. Rather than coming from a place of blame, realize they don’t know your feelings until you share them. Given time to reflect (without being yelled at), kids will often feel remorse. It helps them develop an internal understanding about how their actions impact others and promotes a long-term shift in behaviors.
Remember, discipline and consequences are actually for teaching, not punishing. There’s a difference. It’s important to realize we are ultimately raising children to be responsible and caring adults. Yelling, scolding, embarrassing, demeaning, hitting, throwing things, etc. do not teach responsibility or caring. They actually teach children to throw tantrums as a way of expressing disappointment, hurt and anger. They become resentful when they get in trouble for doing what adults do. This is part of how bullies come to be. What children need is love, understanding and guidance. When consistently approached in this way, they respond in kind.
Traci L. Williams is the Founder of A Loving Way to Parent. She provides parenting classes, teen programs and individual coaching. She is known for her practical parenting style and offers a free 15-minute phone call. Schedule today!