The Magic of Consequences
Consequences are a normal part of life. They’re something we all experience on a daily basis, and they are paramount in your quest to get your kids to finally start listening to you. Now I’m not saying you need to bring down the hammer, or become the family dictator. So before we start on this journey, let’s look at the difference between consequences and punishment.
Punishment is retribution or vengeance. It inflicts emotional or physical pain to a person as a means of coercion to illicit a specific desired behavior. (Ie. If you don’t stop hopping on the stairs I’m going to get your brother Chick-Fil-A and you’re going to have to watch him eat it.)
I received a lot of punishments as a child, so it took a huge amount of self-awareness for me to distinguish when I was using them at first. You may have the same experience depending on how you were raised. Allow yourself to pause before you reprimand your child, and consider some of the information that we’re going to cover about in the rest of this post. (If after reading this your go to is still the punishments you received as a child, PLEASE send me an email. I would love to help you grow beyond that.)
Consequences are the result of a persons behavior. They teach understanding, self control, and cause/effect. They do NOT come from a place of frustration, anger, or disappointment.
There are 3 types of consequences that you can expect your child (and everyone) to experience.
✨Natural- There is nothing pre-arranged about these. They’re a powerful motivator and are what comes to mind when we think of cause and effect.
Ie. Eat too much cake ➡️ get a stomach get
✨Logical- Prearranged by adults and used to motivate whoever they are leading.
Ie. If you choose to play with the toys in your bed before you go potty in the morning, then you are choosing stop having toys in your bed. If you choose to go potty before playing, then you can keep the toys in your bed.
✨Problem Solving- Allow children to become part of the solution while building important life skills by having them brainstorm the situation with you.
Ie. Your child consistently makes a stupid face when taking pictures. You’ve tried many things including stomping your foot and saying “Can you please just smile in ONE picture?!” Talk to them “This has been a consistent issue. We would like to have nice pictures to send to your grandparents, put up in our home, and keep for memories. What can we do to help you remember to stop making wacky faces every time you take a picture.” Then listen. Have them help you work through a solution.
Often times natural consequences are the best ones to teach your children because these are what they will face when they grow into adulthood. They also mean that you don't have to be the "bad guy" or nag your child. For example, in the event that they don't want to put on their coat or shoes, or if they don't finish their homework. The natural consequences of these actions would be that they're cold and/or they have to carry their own coat/shoes, or they fail the assignment and have to redo it or take a low grade.
Sometimes using natural consequences requires you to set aside your feelings, or concern about being judged for having a barefoot child/child with a bad grade. If this is something you struggle with, we can work on it together in a Parent Coaching session.
Only use natural consequences when they don’t put your child in serious danger.
When administering consequences keep a few things at the top of your mind…
Is this behavior going to negatively effect your child longterm or is it currently an inconvenience to you?
Does this require a reminder or a consequence? (ie. be responsible with your body vs if you don't stop hopping on the bed I'm not going to have time to read you a book at bedtime)
Am I or my child simply hungry and/or tired?
Can you lean in or walk away?
Leaning in or walking away.
Leaning in when your child is not listening would look like you walking closer to them, getting on their level, and talking TO (not at) them. Very frequently I find that requests or instructions that are yelled across the house are simply ineffective. Walking away would look like you discontinuing engagement with your child when you have reached a limit. If they are being disrespectful, you could say "You may not speak to me that way, when you're ready to talk about this I will be finishing dinner."
It’s important that consequences relate to the current behavior.
If you choose to continue splashing people at the pool, then you are choosing to sit out while everyone else swims.
If you choose to play on your iPad after I have asked you to put it away, then you are choosing to play with non-electronic toys today.
If you choose not to clean up your mess, then you are choosing for me to throw these things away when I clean them up.
When allowing your children to experience more consequences be consistent, uphold your boundaries, and have followthrough. It’s important that they learn what all three of these things look like in a healthy stable adult and relationship. You’re teaching your children way more than listening and obeying when you implement consequences, but that’s for another post.
“Yes, this is great information, but I STILL need some ideas for consequences that don't make parenting even more challenging than it already is.”
If this is you, then send me a quick email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you over a list of some logical and problem-solving consequences we use in our own home.