Consequences are something that happens as a result of your child behaving in a particular way. They are not intended to knock a child’s self-esteem nor to punish, but to help them learn from their mistakes and not repeat them.
Benefits of effective limit setting:
- Positive consequences (praise, time together, rewards etc.) can make desired behaviour more likely in the future, whereas a ‘negative’ consequence can make unwanted behaviour less likely in the future.
- You will feel less frustrated and more accepting of your children when you know you can set and enforce limits when you need to.
- Children will feel less anxious and more trusting when they know their parents are in charge and will treat them fairly and with respect. As parents we become safe company to be with.
- Teaches children responsible behaviours and self-control, because they learn that their behaviours and actions will have a direct effect on them.
- The ultimate aim is to encourage the child to learn to manage both their feelings and their behaviour.
Here’s how it works:
- Focus on what you want your child to learn – not how best to punish the child i.e. you want them to listen the first time, eat properly or not hit etc.
- Set one consequence for one specific behaviour: (don’t double them up) i.e. if you are rude to your sister you lose your phone, if you refuse to do your chores no television etc. Not, if you hit your sister you will lose your phone and if you refuse to do chores that will be 2 days of losing the phone!
- Let the child know ahead of time what will happen if he acts out: just like there are speeding signs on the motorway, the consequences for your child’s behaviour should be clear to him. Tell him, “If you speak nastily to your sister, this is what’s going to happen from now on.” This way THEY ‘choose’ the consequence, it is not YOU! So you have agreed and informed the child about what behaviour you want to change and what consequence will follow. Have this conversation when things are calm.
- Consequences should be time sensitive: they should know how long the consequence will last, not just ‘until I say so’. Less is better: a long consequence is harder for you and your child to follow through with. 10 minutes away from the TV is often better than a day. It also gives you an opportunity to ‘add more time’. If your child does not comply the first time you can then add another 10 minutes. Timing of consequences should be linked to age, the behaviour and the individual child.
- If you need to set the consequences; you can simply just refer to the agreement – ‘you chose to X so the effect is Y’.
- Implement it in a calm and measured way: you don’t need to be loud or aggressive to deliver a consequence or be heard. ‘OK, so you chose to hit me, therefore you will have to xx’. STOP there, no need to explain more or it just sounds like you are trying to convince yourself and your child, plus you open yourself up for negotiation. Use as few words as possible too as you are less likely to go into word overflow where you might end up shaming, blaming or criticising your child.
- Control your own emotions: our own anger can be the biggest enemy to implementing effective consequences. Before you attend to your child STOP, BREATHE and gain control of your emotions. Tell yourself that it is OK to have emotions i.e. anger, frustration etc. but it is what we do with them that matters.
- Don’t give a consequence in the heat of the moment: If your child is having a full tantrum don’t throw in the consequences then. Wait till he (and you) have calmed down and then implement it. I know this can be hard when you don’t want the emotions to flare up again – but keep in mind that if you become consistent the negative behaviour will diminish over time. Don’t give in or give up.
- Ignoring is a form of consequence: you don’t have to attend to all your child’s misbehaviour, attitude and words all the time. You can ignore some of it. Kids love their parents’ attention and not getting it is a form of consequence too; it will often have the same effect of diminishing behaviour you don’t want to see or hear. There are some behaviours you can’t ignore such as hitting, stealing, running away, violence, damaging things etc. CLICK here to read ‘Choose your battles and ignore the rest’
- Forget and let go: When a child has broken a rule and received a consequence and followed through with it, then he deserves to be forgiven and given a fresh start. One of the most difficult things for children is having their parents hold resentment towards them or a negative view of them. They have ‘served their time’ so forgive them, don’t keep reminding them of their misdemeanours, and control your need to continue telling your child off.
- How to deal with a child who ‘appears’ not to care: kids do this all the time. If they know you will restrict, or make them earn something they really, really want, why would they let you know what that thing is? If they pretend not to care, then maybe you won’t bother taking it away. Pretty smart, when you think about it. But they do care and they are held accountable.
When to implement the tool – use it : Consequences should be our last resort after the child fails to follow through with rules, effective commands, where we have given warnings, ignored the behaviour and tried other positive discipline tools.
Awareness question: Deal with 1 or 2 behaviours at a time: otherwise it’s too much negativity for your child and too much for you to follow up on. Ask yourself what is important to deal with right now? And park the rest for later!
- Disciplining our children doesn’t have to be hard, negative and loud in order to work.
- How will you know that your consequences work? Because your child is being held accountable for their actions