We tend to rely on punishments to get our children to comply, but you have probably noticed this just causes disconnection and more negative behavior- things like rebellion and resentment. There is a difference between an effective consequence and a punishment, but knowing that difference can be tricky and takes some retraining to get away from old habits. However, once used correctly, they are one of our most powerful parenting tools. To be effective, they should follow the Four Rs:
1. Related- The consequence should be related to the misbehavior. If they are staying up late on their phone, then the phone has to be plugged in downstairs before bed. If they are not turning work in on time at school, they have to spend time after school doing homework to catch up. If they aren’t using materials correctly, they lose the privilege to use the materials. Be careful! We tend to take cell phones away for unrelated behavior. This becomes a punishment which will increase resentment and build distrust between you and your child.
2. Respectful- Consequences are non-emotional and non-punitive. Think of the real world- the consequence of not following driving laws is they take away your license. They don’t call you and lecture you about how disappointed they are or take away your cell phone. They simply give the related consequence. There’s nothing personal about delivering consequences. However, often when we deliver punishments, there is a desire to want the child to feel bad. This instills shame and will slowly chip away at the connection with your child.
3. Revealed- Children should know the consequences of their actions ahead of time. Just as we know what happens if we disobey the laws when driving- the rules are not sprung on us at the last minute. Even when we fail to pay a bill, the company sends a respectful note in advance to let us know the last possible day to pay before the consequence is enacted.
4. Routine- Effective consequences should also be routinely enforced every time. If ONE day the garbage truck swings back around to get our garbage even though we didn’t have it out in time, we will now doubt that they mean what they say and will test their limits. If you threaten to take away their device when they use it incorrectly, but then don't take it away, they will stop believing you mean what you say and will test limits. You must follow through consistently with consequences. Also, make sure you are comfortable with whatever consequence is set up, otherwise you won't enforce it. And enforcing the consequence is the most important step.
If you would like help brainstorming some specific consequences that would work for your family, contact me!