This past Sunday in church my pastor shared a quote that made everyone laugh, but it’s actually really, really sad. He told us that Prince Edward of England was quoted as saying, “The thing that impresses me most about America is the way parents obey their children.”
Ugh! Is this true? Possibly, I meet moms every day who are frustrated that they can’t get their kids to behave. Perhaps kids don’t behave because we just don’t have the time anymore to give consistent consequences. When there aren’t any consequences kids learn that no matter what they do they get away with it. They’ve figured out how to wear mom down and get what they want. In the end, mom really obeys them!
I’m rooting for moms to make a comeback! It is happening, perhaps that is why our most popular page on iMOM.com is 21 Creative Consequences. I haven’t tried them all. Some are really creative but they gave me lots of ideas. The trick is to create a consequence that the child can associate with the behavior. For some kids, it only takes one consequence to remind them to avoid the behavior forever. For some, like 2 of my 5 kids, you may have to get more creative. Some kids are so passionate about things that they are willing to risk it and do it again.
These are the 3 questions I ponder before choosing behavioral consequences:
1. Was this the first time or more?
Usually the first time I explain why they need to behave differently. After that, I try to create a consequence to teach them.
Example: One of my sons left his dirty clothes all over the floor. They would just pile up in heaps around the room. It happened often and makes it impossible to clean his room. I would make him go in and clean up. But it was not changing his behavior. So one day, I bagged up all the clothes on the floor and put them in the trunk of my car. It didn’t take long for him to run out and get mad. He got them back and had to spend the day washing, folding, and putting them away.
In this example, my son was not taking responsibility for his belongings and creating work for me when I had to clean his messy room.
2. What was the child’s attitude?
Sometimes the child is just being careless. This is common in younger children or children that are easily distracted. Sometimes the child is being intentionally disobedient which is more concerning—it is a heart problem.
Example: One of my boys liked video games. I would call him for dinner and he would keep playing. He was intentionally ignoring me. He was being disrespectful because he cared more for his game than for his family and the dinner he was holding up. I would let it go once but if it happened again, I would box up the Xbox and put it away, indefinitely. When I noticed that he was responsive and obeyed the first time in other things it would magically appear again.
3. Was the behavior risky?
Risky behavior must be addressed quickly for safety. Some kids don’t have a fear factor and some just get too physical with other kids. Whichever it is, intentional or impulsive, they have to learn self-control or someone will get hurt. If they love the trampoline but get too creative on it, like one of mine, they lose the privilege sometimes for months. Or if they are too physical and get rough, like one of mine, they run laps around the block to take that energy down to a controllable level. Sometimes for miles, my son became a cross-country athlete from consequences! We laugh about it now.