Free Social Skills

Consequences Make Sense!

Many parents and educators are saying the same thing: “My kids don't listen to me.” There could be several reasons for this; however, a very common cause is consequences are not being implemented in an effective manner.

Not implementing appropriate and effective consequences leads to an increase in unwanted behaviors.

The following guidelines help ensure consequences are effective:

1. Keep emotions cool and calm, in other words, practice your own self-management: If you lose your temper, consequences often become harsh and unrealistic. Kids learn better from a calm, composed and reasonable adult, than from someone who is angry and upset and just trying to punish them.

2. Plan clear consequences in advance: While stating expectations, setting clear consequences for breaking those expectations is helpful. This way, kids understand what they should be doing and what is going to happen if they don't follow the expectations. Making a list of common misbehaviors and coming up with corresponding consequences for those behaviors helps you to be more prepared. Encourage the kids to help you create the list. They will have fun doing it and it helps them feel as though they have some control over what happens.

3. Be brief: You might be tempted to lecture and preach. Just a few words will convey the message. The more you speak, the less they listen. Keep it short and then enforce it.

4. Be consistent: If you set a consequence for a certain behavior, you should be sure to follow through with that consequence each and every time the behavior occurs. Kids try to test boundaries and see what they can get away with. If they get away with something once, they'll expect to get away with it again.

5. Be immediate: Delayed consequences are ineffective. Kids can't connect the current consequence with their past behavior, and therefore consider it unfair and try to rebel against it. The time interval between an act of misbehavior and the consequence should be as short as possible.

6. Be sensible: Removing a privilege which does not interest a child is meaningless. Providing a consequence that the child doesn't mind is ineffective. The consequence will be effective only when you withdraw some privileges the child enjoys. Evaluate the kid's interest and choose consequences accordingly.

7. Keep the quantity equal to the offense: The smallest quantity of consequence which affects the child adversely is okay. Remember, too large quantity will certainly cause serious side effects. If the child finds the consequence unfair, he feels punished for no good reason and rebels against you.

8. Warnings don't work: “Barking dogs seldom bite”. Kids know this intuitively. If you keep warning the child of consequences, he senses your non-seriousness and ignores your threat. There is no point in warning. Enforce the consequence and the child will learn that the behavior is not acceptable. The child will understand that you mean business and there is no point in testing boundaries any longer. If you have already warned three times and not done it, you convey a message to the child that he still has the chance to get away with it.

9. Be patient: Behavior modification takes time. Behavior is a bundle of habits, and habits die hard. It takes at least 21 days to make or break a habit when consistent efforts are made and there are no obstructing factors. Let the consequences work over a period of time. Give them some time. Look for small changes and stay consistent.

10. Review the results: After enforcing a consequence it's important to look back on the effect it had. Make sure you think about how the child reacted and whether you followed all the guidelines above. If you didn't follow the guidelines above or the child reacted even more negatively, your consequence most likely wasn't effective. It's okay to go back and talk to your child if you feel as though you didn't implement an effective consequence. While working on modifying behavior, it's important to continue to build bonds and learn from each other.

Use what talents you possess. The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang the best.

— Henry Van Dyke

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