Coming up with consequences for kids that work is not always easy, especially when you’re in the heat of the moment and you just need your kids to do what you ask! You need to find something that works and stick to it… if you want a behavior to change.
How many times do we (myself included!) make up crazy consequences on the spot… “If you do that again, we are not going to the beach!” Or “If I hear that again, no TV for a week!”
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These are not things that we want to do, so why do we say them? We are in the heat of the moment. The chance of us actually following through with these consequences are slim, leaving our kids with the idea that “It doesn’t matter if they listen or not… since mom/dad isn’t actually going to do anything.”
If you ask them to do something (clean up their room) and they ignore you, you have three options:
1- Get upset (I’ve been there)
2- Just do it for them (yeah, I’ve been there too)
3- OR… the simple tip that I want to tell you today. (read below)
I came up with this idea because of a situation that I found myself in during my college years. I was in a business communications class and we were having a discussion about companies: the bosses & the employees.
Our first discussion was about what employers could do to get their staff to abide by certain rules at work.
We brainstormed the traditional ways:
1- Telling them what to do
2- Sharing what other businesses do, etc.
3- Talking about the consequence given by their boss/employer.
Afterward, my professor offered one other solution: what if THEY came up with the consequences? Their own consequence?
We all looked a little dumbfounded. Wait, what?
Creating their own Consequences that WORK!
No, really, he went on to explain, let me give you an example…
Picture This Scenario: A classroom full of college students (us), with a professor ready to teach (him) … and our cell phones start ringing. They were constantly ringing during class.
He took that opportunity to teach us: He told us that although he needed the phones to stay silent during class, most of the students would forget. Then he asked “So, what do YOU think should happen to someone if their cell phone goes off during class? ” He waited for us to respond.
We all laughed and looked around, still a bit confused.
I remember thinking: ‘Did he just ask us what WE think we should do if someone’s cell phone goes off?’
The room was silent for a while because none of us had been asked that kind of question before. We talked about it and came up with something that we all agreed upon. Being college kids, we went for something funny… we would have to stand up on a desk and sing “I’m a Little Tea Pot” if our cell phones rang during class (I’m not kidding…this really happened).
And, Guess What?
Only ONE person had their cell phone go off that semester. It worked. We created the consequence and we knew exactly what would happen if we broke the rules of the classroom.
So, why does it work?
- It’s memorable.
We created the consequence, so we remembered it. You know the saying about how we can kind of understand things by hearing it, but when we are hands-on creating it ourselves, we remember it more? That is the case here.
- It’s self-initiated.
This worked because as a team, we came up with a consequence that we ALL wanted to avoid. At home, your kids can dream up a consequence that they don’t want to do… maybe a dreaded chore (like cleaning out a closet) or time out or losing electronics.
- It is a black & white line.
If you break the rule, this happens. No more nagging or going on and on about what you’re doing to do if your kids don’t listen to you. Letting them come up with the consequences helps to involve them and let them know that you value their input.
How can this work at home or in a classroom?
- Set up a meeting with the kids and talk about what you expect from them. Do you need them to help out more (Here are some suggested chores for kids 2-14.) Do you need them to stop arguing with a sibling? Whatever it is, talk about the behavior. Explain what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.
- Brainstorm consequences with the kids (younger kids may need more help/guidance, but older kids will catch on to this quickly and they will probably be more creative than you). You can write these on a sheet of paper as you are brainstorming. Come up with one that works for your family.
- When you come up with the consequence that your family agrees on (it might be different for each child), write it down. Keep in handy for a few days (maybe on the refrigerator) until everyone remembers.
- Follow through ~ if any consequences are going to work at home, you’ve got to follow through. It takes 3 days to break a bad habit & 21 days to build a new one. It will be hard (trust me, I know!) but following through during those first three days are going to be the KEY component to creating better behavior.
PS: This is an easy chore system if you need one:
If you want to start chores with your kids, but not have to deal with a chore chart, try these. We have these & they are easy to keep up with and have worked wonders in our home. It makes it easy to say “Ok everyone – go grab 2 chore cards and then you are done and you can go play.”
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Meet Katie- she loves working with little ones and raising her two kids. She lives in CA where she loves to go on hikes with her kids and walk to the beach. Check out her most popular post: 7 ways to rock being a stay at home mom.