Have you ever thought of creating consequences WITH (and for) your child??
This blog is about moving from the dreaded nagging and random-on the spot-penalties -
towards constructive and cooperative consequences that are small enough to be carried out, without drama and too much resistance, and significant enough to change behavior over time.
Penalties are generally given to make a person feel ‘wrong’ and thus add elements of emotional guilt and shame and as we don’t like those feelings, they will often be translated into resistance and revenge (whether consciously or unconsciously). Penalties for children often include loss of favourite items, time alone in their room or a long talk about how disappointing their behavior has been.
Consequences are specific actions that, whilst unpleasant, are meant to be performed as quickly as possible in an effort to ‘pay a price and move on’. Alone each consequence does not seem too onerous, but over time, they become worth avoiding – thus creating a voluntary change in behavior not to ‘avoid wrong’ but to stay ‘in flow’ rather than manage the inconvenience of the consequence.
Formulating both consequences and penalties as a family can be very helpful – there is no reason why children should not be involved in setting their own consequences. In doing so they are actively able to make choices, consider the levels of wrong behavior and commit to working their own way from the mistake towards learning.
I suggest three levels
BIG Wrongs – is usually someone hitting, hurting others physically or emotionally.
It might require …
Standing for a given period at a sign that says ‘ouch’ to understand the pain inflicted or listening to how the other person suffered from their behavior
Having to do something nice for the person hurt – play a game, make a card, clean something for them, perform helpful act of their choosing, such as making them a drink or snack
Losing something they value (toy, electronics, air con, use of own room) for a limited period (a few hours, half day, one day – generally no more)
MEDIUM wrongs – usually mean behavior or choosing rule breaking
Having to write what other choices would be better than the ‘wrong’ and committing to trying to use one in future
Lines – just to get the message into their brain – anything from 2 to 20 dependent on age
Doing an act of service for others, (write to grandma, go to the shop for mum, clean a cupboard) or something they themselves don’t like to do which requires effort, such as a page of math, tidying their room, going on a long walk
Experiencing boredom or waiting – eg sitting without anything to do for 10-30 minutes, waiting at the table after dinner for 15 mins, waiting a longer time than usual to get to their electronic time or to get to use the freedom of their own room
SMALL mistakes – usually created by careless behavior
Try to keep these situational – if you drop your towel mum will put it in a plastic bag and tomorrow you will have a damp towel to use. If you leave your cup you will have to wash 8 cups and dry them and put them away. If you say a mean word you will have to repeat it 30 times. If you huff and puff you will have to blow ballons for 5 minutes……the general idea is simply to provide natural consequence or inflated behavior so that the act becomes more clear to them
What words could be found to make this better (it is surprising how many behaviors arise becasue of lack of words – eg kicking in the back seat of the car could be translated into ‘please stay on your own side of the seat’, or storming off from a game could be translated into ‘I get so angry when I lose’.
Random silly stuff – this is a great category…..because it keeps things light hearted but still adds a moment of embarrassment….
Cluck like a chicken for one minute
Tell a nursery rhyme
Twirl around for 10 times
Do 20 jump jacks
Kiss 10 things in this room
Run up and down the stairs 5 times
This requires thinking ahead – for parents and children and this means that both come together to consider cooperatively. It also means that mistakes are anticipated (making us human and prone to forget) and there is less sense of injustice and reactivity when consequences are put into place – and more a sense of just getting on with it.