We’ve all been there. Our kids misbehave, and nothing we say makes a difference in modifying their bad behavior. In fact, sometimes it seems that it makes things worse! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard my son mimic my lame attempts at consequences (he’s a big fan of counting to three, which only serves to infuriate me as he uses my words against me). How can you develop consequences that will actually work with your child?
- Only say it if you’re willing to follow through. When establishing consequences, it is critical that you are willing to follow through on it if your child doesn’t change his or her behavior. In one very heated situation, I took away treats for an entire month. It was hard, but I had to stick to my guns because I didn’t want my son to call my bluff. Saying something in the heat of the moment like “if you don’t stop calling your sister names, we’re not going to Grandma’s house” is only effective if you don’t go to Grandma’s house. If you do go to Grandma’s house, you are only further weakening your position for the future.
- Set the rules and appropriate consequences for each rule. Having a set of house rules is very helpful because it sets forth expectations for your child. Take it a step further and assign appropriate consequences for each rule. Perhaps you decide that one house rule is “We keep our hands and feet to ourselves.” If your child chooses to break the rule, the assigned consequence is no time on the tablet. By preparing your child for what will happen if a rule is broken (and following through on the consequence each time), he is much more likely not to break the rule.
- Involve your kids in making the rules and the consequences. Your kids are smart, and they know how they should behave. Ask them to participate when you make the house rules and attached consequences. Make sure your child understands the reason behind each house rule (safety, etc.) so they can think about what the appropriate consequence is for each.
- Don’t be a softy. Once the rules and consequences are set, you have to stick to them – every single time. The first time you waiver, your child questions the importance of the rule and consequence. You may see more rule-breaking at the beginning of putting this plan in place, but if you stick to it, you will quickly see the rules being followed.
Keeping calm in the midst of your child’s misbehaving is important and having a guidebook in place will make a huge difference. Your child will appreciate the process, as well, because you are asking for her opinion, showing her how valuable it is. Ultimately, she wants to be good! Helping her know what to expect if she makes bad choices gives her the freedom to make a good choice. And your relationship will be all the better for it!