The use of consequences and limit setting are both positive forms of discipline that can be used to modify behavior and help foster intrinsic motivation in our children. The use of these will ultimately help guide and teach our children to make wise choices and choose socially responsible behaviors.

I think that sometimes consequences can be made to be more complicated than they actually are. I have set this out to give you different situations that might call for consequences, how to devise them and apply them effectively.

3 Different Situations for applying Consequences

1. For when you have identified a recurrent behavior challenge

Where possible it is definitely easier to have a consequence pre-thought so when the behavior unfolds, you have the consequence at the ready. It is a great idea to think of behaviors/actions that happen frequently in your home that result in conflict. Then decide upon a course of action and consequence so everyone knows in advance what will happen if or when……..

  • Toys are left out
  • Bar wrappers are on the floor in the car
  • Cereal plates are left out on the counter
  • Clothes are all over their bedroom floors
  • Field hockey cleats are left on a vent in the family room
  • The apple charger is not returned to the charging station
  • Lunch boxes are not unpacked

Sound familiar? Suffice to say that it was easy for me to think of those ones! Whatever they are, I suggest that you have a plan.

2. For times when something happens out of the blue that catches you off guard

The problem I find most parents face is thinking of a logical consequence in the heat of the moment. In this instance, the best plan is to simply say to your child or teenager:

“We will discuss this and the consequence for your actions when we have each had a chance to calm down and / or have more time to deal with it”

This response effectively buys you time to think about it and, if necessary, to calm yourself so you will be less likely to deal a consequence that might not work or serve as a valuable teaching lesson. Ultimately, that is what consequences do for a child; they are used to teach them about the consequences of their actions.

3. A generic approach that can be applied to almost any situation

“With freedom comes responsibility. If you are not prepared to be responsible, you loose the freedom”

Used in this context, almost any situation can be unraveled and a consequence linking the concept of “freedom and responsibility” to the behavior / action can be decided upon. You might still need to play the “heat of the moment card” (point 2 above) to buy you time but you will be able to work one out using this model.

Examples of Consequences

Problem: Your 5 year old daughter simply refuses to put her bike helmet on when riding her bike.

Solution: The freedom of riding your bike comes with the responsibility of wearing your helmet. If you don’t wear your helmet, you loose the freedom of riding your bike. So their choice effectively becomes RIDE BIKE + HELMET or NO RIDING.

Problem: Your 12 year old son did not get his homework completed on time because he spent too much time playing MineCraft.

Solution: The freedom of playing MineCraft comes with the responsibility that you will prioritize your time and get your homework done before playing games. The result of this is that you loose the freedom of playing MineCraft until such time as you show more responsibility to getting your homework completed on time.

Problem: Your 14 year old daughter is rarely ready in the mornings for her ride with you to school.

Solution: If you want to get a ride with me to school, you need to be ready on time. If you are not going to be responsible and get yourself ready on time, I will leave and you will have to find an alternative means of transport to get to school.

Effective Consequences

  • RELATED AND RELEVANT – if consequences are not seen to be related and relevant to the behavior they can effectively be seen as punishment ie. if you don’t tidy up your bedroom, you will get no candy. There is no logical connection between tidying a room and candy!
  • REASONABLE – they don’t always need to be hard, just logical, so that they learn from the experience
  • RELIABLE to enforce – if the consequence is so complicated to see through, you are unlikely to commit to it and be consistent in the application of it

As children get older, I like to give them the opportunity to be involved in setting the consequences for their actions. They are more likely to buy into a consequence that they have had a part in creating.

In life we all suffer the consequences of our actions on a daily basis and we learn that with freedom comes responsibility and that certain behaviors are socially acceptable and some are not. Children need to learn this and it is up to us as parents to use consequences to teach them this valuable life lesson.

I hope that this will equip you to use consequences more effectively. Don’t forget that you are the parent; you are there to guide and support your child. This means letting your child face the consequences of their actions, feel the frustration in order to accept the futility of a situation so that change and adaptations can be made to their behavior thus enabling them to move on with a little bit more resilience in their resilience tank.

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