A Toolbox of Consequences

In the seminar I teach for the National Center for Biblical parenting, I present a toolbox of consequences—various tools designed to help children see their misbehaviors and move toward doing the right thing. But before we go over that toolbox, I help parents consider a necessary first step: using words to guide your child. Before applying a consequence for bad behavior, be sure you explain and teach the right behaviors and attitude.

This is what we adults would prefer others do to us when we make a mistake. I would much rather someone take me aside privately to explain what they want rather than punish me when I commit a wrong. Sometimes parents jump too quickly to a consequence, when they should spend more time teaching what they expect.

But when we have explained clearly and still our children fail to obey, it's time to act. In such situations, parents need to have other tools available. Here's a taste of four of the seven tools I discuss in the seminar, "Cooperation, Consequences, and Keeping Your Sanity."

1.) Natural Consequences – These are the things that happen outside of our control—naturally—when a child misbehaves. For example, when a child leaves his bicycle out in the rain, it rusts. Or, a child is rough with her pet cat and the cat scratches her. In these situations, life is the teacher. Parents must resist the urge to say "I told you so," and instead empathize with your child. You can help the young child make a connection between his behavior and the consequence, but don't gloat. This is the perfect time for you to come alongside them like a coach to process the implications of their actions.

2.) Logical Consequences – When natural consequences are too severe or take too long, then the parent can introduce logical consequences. In the example of a bike left out in the rain, the rust might develop too slowly to allow the child to make the connection, so a wise parent might speed up the process by saying "When you leave your bicycle outside it can get rained on and rust.  If it rusts, you won't be able to use it and that would make you sad. To remind you to put it in the garage like we've asked you, I'm going to make your bike off-limits to you for the next week. "

3.) More Parental Control – Children who are failing at something often need parents to provide more structure. For example, a child who fails to get homework done on time can benefit from a parent willing to sit with him for the first hour after school to get homework done. The child doesn't get to choose his activity for that hour, and the parent provides structure for success.

7.) Skipping tools 4,5, and 6, the last of the seven tools takes us into a new arena. This one is not an application of a negative condition OR the removal of a privilege. This tool comes from the positive side of the toolbox: training to do the right thing. Sometimes children simply don't respond to a consequence. That may signal the need to try a different tactic. Here's an example: Your child fights with a sibling and now a negative pattern has developed. Break the cycle by helping your child observe and appreciate the sibling. Require the child to identify three things the sibling likes. Have them take one of those things and turn it into an act of service. Let's say the sibling likes ice cream. Help your fighter develop a plan to buy and deliver the sibling's favorite ice cream flavor sometime over the next day or two. This accomplishes several positive outcomes: Your fighter will need to study the sibling's likes, which develops more awareness. Your fighter will practice planning something positive rather than always thinking of reasons to fight. Your fighter will anticipate the delight on the sibling's face. Then finally, your fighter will get to experience that positive feedback when they deliver the ice cream.

This last tool can change the emotional atmosphere in your home from negative to positive. All seven tools have a place and a time for their use, but this last one can develop character in your children while reducing confrontation and strife.

Learn more about bringing this dynamic seminar to your church by contacting me.