No matter how wonderful our kids are, there are always going to be things that they do that we don’t want them to do. As parents we are responsible for setting consequences for these things.
Whether we have teens or toddlers, the type of consequences have a big impact on whether or not that behavior will happen again. I prefer to think of it as setting consequences instead of punishing our kids because the goal should be to teach not punish. (Which is hard to remember when your daughter is rubbing powdered jello into your tan carpet!)
4 Points for setting Consequences
- Make them natural consequences if possible – We are all familiar with natural consequences in our lives. If we jump off roof, we are going to be really hurt. If we eat too much cake, we are going to have a stomach ache. No one gives us those consequences, they just happen naturally.When we are setting consequences for our kids, the more they seem natural, the more our kids will understand that their behavior caused the consequence.An example of natural consequences is “You threw a tantrum for too long, and now there is no time to go to the zoo. ” In this example, the parent is not deciding not to go to the zoo because of the behavior, the child made going to the zoo impossible.
- Make sure they are easy to understand – Simple consequences like -” If you hit your sister you have to go to your room” are easy for kids to understand. But more complex consequences like “If you hit your sister, you have to go to your room for 5 minutes if you are sorry and you know what you did was wrong but you have to stay longer in your room if you don’t apologize,” are much harder to understand.Some examples of simple consequences are:
If you stay out past curfew, you can’t go out with friends for two weeks.
If your room is dirty, you can’t play outside with your friends.
If you don’t eat your dinner, you don’t get dessert.
- Make sure they are practical – If a child throws a glass and it shatters, it is reasonable to say that consequence is that the child has to clean up the glass (with adult supervision to ensure their safety). It would not be practical to say that the consequence is that they have to glue all of the pieces back together.I is important to make sure that the consequence is something our kids are able to do so that we can enforce it which leads to the final point:
- Make sure it is enforceable – It is important that your kids respect you and have boundaries they can trust. So the consequences you set have to be ones that you can follow through on. Don’t tell them they can’t leave the house until their room is clean if there is a family commitment in 20 minutes that they have to attend for example. And if the consequence for sneaking cookies is that they can’t have dessert at dinner, make sure that you remember to follow through.
It takes a lot of effort as parents to make sure that the consequences we set are going to be teaching opportunities for our kids but it is worth it in the long run. Having a very strictly enforced curfew for example has eliminated a lot of problems because my social kids don’t want to lose time with their friends.