Psychotherapy

Enforcing Consequences with Children

Raising children has never been more of a challenge than it is today. The reasons for this phenomenon could probably fill several volumes, but what I would like to focus on are some simple tips for correcting unwanted or inappropriate behaviors.

Every action in life has a consequence, so it is important that children learn this early. The biggest mistake made by parents is that consequences are either unreasonable or not properly enforced. My rule of thumb is this: consequences should be simple, reasonable, enforceable and predictable.
Simple- Dont complicate consequences with a list of confusing rules, adult words and angry banter. Appropriate Example: “If you talk back, then you can’t go outside today.” No excessive explanations and no arguing back and forth.
Reasonable- Let’s keep things realistic. Threatening a five year old with not being allowed outside for three weeks is not only age-inapprorpiate, but it’s just plain excessive and ultimately ineffective. The goal is that your child is successful at experiencing the consequence and fulfilling the expectations of the consequence.
Enforceable- If you are not 100% certain that you can follow through on your threat, then don’t threaten! How many times have you had a shopping cart full of groceries with a screaming child in tow and found yourself saying, “If you scream one more time, then we are leaving the store?” And how many times has your child continued to scream and you continued to shop? Unless you are willing to literally walk away from a cart full of groceries, then pass on the threat.
On a side note; this tactic can be quite effective, especially if you take your cart to the customer service desk (with your child) and tell the manager that you are very sorry but have to leave due to the fact that you’re child is not listening. No need to take a humiliating tone, just keep it calm and straightforward.
Predictable- If you follow the previous rules, then predictability will automatically follow. Once your child realizes that you are consistent and mean what you say, then he/she will begin to know exactly what is to come. The end result; your child will begin to keep themselves in check and overall behavioral issues will decrease.
Should you find that you have implemented these basic rules and there is no behavior change or suspect that your child is having significant difficulty controlling their own behaviors, then I would suggest seeking out the services of a professional therapist or counselor.

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