When Your Kids Ignore Consequences
You're trying to be a responsible parent. You are prepared, anticipating your child's every move. You set up consequences for behavior, and enforce them. All should be good, right? Wrong! Your child continues to misbehave. It seems as if he's ignoring the consequences...hmm...how could that be? You did everything right. What's the problem?
If this scenario sounds all too familiar then it may be time to look more closely at your consequences and your child's behavior. When consequences are not a good fit, they may not be as effective as you think.
Natural consequences are the direct result of the child's actions. They are not implemented by another person. For example, if the child leaves her lunch at home, she has to skip lunch that day.
Logical consequences are consequences that are relevant to the behavior and imposed by a parent, teacher or caregiver. For example, if a child spills milk, then she will have to clean it up.
Take a look at your consequences. If you are taking computer time away because your child left his lunch at home, there is a definite disconnect for your child. He's not feeling any immediate fallout from forgetting his lunch. That hungry feeling he carries throughout the school day will be more impactful. And this is a real world lesson!
Similarly, if your child spills milk and you send him to his room, you're not teaching him to be accountable for his actions. In addition, you are punishing him for an accidental spill which happens to everybody. Disconnect again.
Possibly you've set up a consequence that is way too harsh or not serious enough. And in many cases, parents don't follow through with consequences that are "over the top". For example, your child comes home 10 minutes late, and you ground her for a month. After a week, you realize that she's been pretty good, and you were too harsh. You let her socialize again after a week, and she knows this will happen again and again. In this case, a better consequence would be to have her come in 10 minutes earlier the next time she's out.
Or, let's say that your child doesn't do his chore for the day, and you make him skip evening dessert. Well, he didn't really like the dessert anyway, so no big deal. A better consequence would be to assign him 2 chores the next day. He'll remember not to skip his chore again!
Do you ever get sucked into battles over consequences? By the end of the argument you've given your kids a break, and they are no longer accountable? Kids are master manipulators. Don't argue or battle over consequences. State the expectation clearly, and drop it!
This ties in with the punishment fitting the crime. If your time frame is way out of line, then your kids may just give up and choose to keep misbehaving. From the example above, let's say that the parents are consistent in grounding their child for a month when she's 10 minutes late. The time frame is so unreasonable that it may contribute to some angry acting out. She may feel hopeless and give up. Or if your time frame is not long enough, then it won't be impactful, and your child won't care.
First, make sure that you are using the right type of consequence. Next, hold a family meeting and develop a plan of action along with your child. Make up a list of family rules and consequences. When your child can participate in the process, it will feel fair and reasonable. In fact, kids are often a lot harder on themselves when asked to think up consequences! Post your rules and consequences for all to see. Check in weekly or monthly at your next family meeting to see how it's going, and make adjustments if necessary.
And if you have younger kids, use the family meeting time to make up some behavior charts and chore charts. Seeing expectations and consequences in writing will only help prevent misunderstandings.
Take a look at your consequences. If all is going smoothly in your home, then give yourself a pat on the back. Good job! But if your kids are still misbehaving, then you may want to follow some of the suggestions above for a more successful behavior management program in your home!
by Joanne McNulty, MS