Along with the joys of parenthood — witnessing your child say their first word, watching them walk for the first time, being able to correctly identify the characters from your favorite sitcom — come some pretty crappy parts. No one wants to see their kid get sick, be bullied, or get on the bus on their first day of kindergarten. Teaching them (or, more accurately, letting your child learn) about consequences for kids can be tough. However, it’s also necessary. As adults, we can all name at least one other adult who did not learn about consequences as a child, right? And look at how they turned out.
Ultimately, though, not all consequences are bad ones: Some are neutral, and others are even beneficial. To be clear, our focus here today is on consequences as behavior management for kids, disrespectful children, and problematic teenagers.
What are consequences for kids?
As you know from your own life experience, there are all sorts of consequences for our actions (or inactions). Letting our kids learn that they exist and are very real is part of our job as parents. According to Kristen Arquette, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Bellevue, WA, consequences help kids learn from their mistakes, make better decisions regarding their behavior, and find their way in the world. Punishments, on the other hand, deliberately make children feel bad.
“While punishments may ‘work’ to interrupt a behavior short term, they have potentially negative long-term effects, including causing children to feel bad about who they are (which also makes them more likely to act out again), as well as creating an adversarial relationship between parents and child,” Arquette told Family Education.
As we’ve already discussed, consequences can be positive (studying hard and then getting a good grade on a test) or negative (sleep in, miss the school bus, have an unexcused absence from school). There are also two different categories of consequences: natural consequences and logical consequences. Natural consequences typically don’t require any intervention by the parents. It’s just what occurred as a direct result of a child’s behavior. Logical consequences, however, are ones that parents impose on kids because of their bad behavior, Arquette explained.
What are examples of consequences for a disrespectful child?
While there are countless examples of consequences for a disrespectful child, here are a few that are known to be effective:
Don’t reward their behavior with attention.
But what if their attention-seeking behavior is kind of disrespectful? It may seem counterintuitive, but selectively ignoring this behavior can be effective because it cuts off their supply of attention. And that may mean they don’t have much of a motivation to do it anymore.
Let them know how they can earn a privilege.
Verywell Family refers to this as “Grandma’s Rule of Discipline.” The point is that rather than telling a child that they can’t do something, tell them instead what they can do to earn privileges. It might help get their attention.
Frame situations in terms of when/then.
Honestly, this sounds pretty similar to Grandma’s Rule, but it appears that the difference is that using when/then is a way to get your disrespectful child to reconsider their behavior. Let’s say they’re upset because you’ve been on a two-hour Zoom call, and they want you to play with them instead. (The feeling is probably mutual.) You can let them know that if they are quiet while you’re working, when your meeting is over, then you’ll go out in the backyard and play with them.
A young child throwing a temper tantrum? They’ve earned themselves a trip to the time-out chair. A consequence can be more effective if it’s delivered swiftly.
Dole out some good old-fashioned restitution.
Instead of traditional punishment, the idea here is to do something kind for the victim of their actions/bad behavior or do something to make up for what they’ve done. Let’s say your kids are chasing each other up and down the aisles of Target. If they do a lap through housewares and, in the process, break a glass, it would be up to them to save their allowance and/or birthday money to be able to pay for the broken item.
What are some examples of consequences for teenagers?
Teenagers are all about establishing their freedom and autonomy. So, when their behavior doesn’t live up to your standards, the most effective consequences tend to be the ones that take away their freedom, or which limit their autonomy or privileges.
For some more specific ideas, here is a list of consequences for a teenager:
- Cutting off their access to WiFi
- Limiting the amount of time that they’re allowed to spend with their friends
- Having them do a social media “cleanse”
- Taking away access to a car (if applicable)
- Not coming to their rescue every time they mess up
- Giving them “special” (aka gross) chores to do around the house
- If your teen is always the last one to the dinner table, assign the responsibility of the server (They’ll have to pour the drinks and bring all the condiments to the table)
- Give them a list of errands to run for you
- If there are younger children in the house, give them extra nights of babysitting
What to Do After Giving Your Teen Consequences
Sometimes disciplining your teen is hard work, and emotions may run high. When disciplining your kid, it’s essential to keep a level head.
- Try your best not to become angry. Sometimes teens can say some hurtful things, but it’s important to keep your cool, so don’t be afraid to take a beat and walk away.
- Set an example. When arguing with your spouse or over the phone, try to limit your anger so your teen can see what a healthy disagreement looks like.
- Defrost the icy silence. After giving your teen consequences, they may not want to speak with you. Acknowledge their anger, and try to warm things over by breaking the ice and being normal.
- Give your child a chance to share their opinions about the rules. But, Mama, keep an open mind and try your best to see their side when they make a suggestion.
- Take time to self-reflect and go over the consequences with your partner. It’s OK to adjust your teen’s punishment, especially a day or two after a heated argument. Maybe the first consequence you gave was too harsh or won’t teach them the lesson you want them to learn. Don’t be afraid to change your mind.
- After being scolded, expect some mild attitude from your teen. But try to let it slide and avoid dwelling on it. The sulking and pouting can be a little annoying, but sometimes it’s part of their cool down process.
- Make sure your teen knows that there are ways to earn back their privileges. Explain why you’re disappointed, but make sure they know there is always a way to redeem themselves.
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