What do you do when your child won’t listen to you or is misbehaving? Time-outs? Give-in? Do you find yourself impatiently ordering them to just follow your directions? Time to introduce consequences!
When most people hear the word “consequence” they think of something negative. In fact, a consequence is simply what happens after we do something. We want to share how to use consequences to help your child learn how what they do affects what happens next.
For example, if your child is having a good time playing with his sister, you might let them both stay up a little longer (positive consequence). However, if they have been bickering since dinner you might put them to bed earlier (negative consequence).
One of the best ways to help your child learn is to use logical consequences – a consequence is logical when the consequence is related to the child’s behavior.
Sometimes logical consequences happen naturally. For example, if a child becomes frustrated with a toy and breaks it, then she can’t play with it anymore.
In this case, you can say something like:
“I understand the toy made you mad because you couldn’t get it to do what you wanted. So, what happened? (pause) You broke it and can’t play with anymore. I know you really liked that toy. This is why we don’t throw our toys. What should you do next time you are mad about a toy? (pause) Come to me and we can figure it out.”
Note that young children might not be able to answer these questions and that is okay. You should still ask, and model the answer for them. Explaining to your child what they did and what happened next helps your child understand how his or her behavior is connected to consequences.
Here are some tips on how to provide logical consequences:
- Provide consequences that make sense because they are related to your child’s behavior. For example, say: “If you share the blocks, then you can keep playing with them. If you do not share the blocks, I will put them away for a while” rather than: “If you do not share the cars you will not get to play before dinner”. The latter won’t help them connect their actions with the outcome.
- Use a calm, non-threatening, firm voice. We know it is sometimes hard not to raise your voice!
- Follow through on the consequence. Think about the consequence in advance and make sure you feel comfortable with them. You don’t want to find yourself suddenly in a position not wanting to give that consequence. It is better to not give a consequence at all than to give a consequence and not follow through with it!
As you use these techniques, be sure to give your child another chance to be successful with their behavior as soon as possible which will give the opportunity for a positive consequence!