Father’s Day Tip #1: The Punishment You’ll Regret Giving Your Child

That’s my son and daughter with me in the pic – I learned the hard way with them and finally found solutions that work! Check this one out for you and/or the Dad or Mom with whom you feel comfortable sharing this…and Happy Father’s Day!


The Punishment You’ll Regret Giving Your Child


by Chris Jackson


Your child won’t stop slamming the door. You say, “I’ve asked you many times to stop, so if you do that one more time, you won’t be able to come on the camping trip.” Two days later, he goes out front to play and slams it again. Or did he? Maybe it wasn’t a full slam. I mean, for him not to come on the family camping trip, it would have to be a really hard slam. Oh! There’s another. He just came back in, and that was a pretty hard slam. But, maybe still not hard enough for it to be the one that triggers the consequence. He’s getting away with it now. You can’t call the final slam, can you? Nope. He knows it: the consequence is too severe, and too inconvenient for the family. The consequence negatively affects the child, the parents, and others.


Still, the next day, he slams the door again, and you enact the consequence. You call your parents (his grandparents) to ask them if your son can stay with them for six nights, while the rest of the family goes on the camping trip. His grandparents love him and love his visits–for a weekend, not a week. His grandparents are inconvenienced, and you now have extra calls to make. Maybe a babysitter? Should you give your parents some money for food and outings for the week that your son is staying with them?


You’ve been planning this family camping trip for a year. You reserved a special spot, and invested time and money in the equipment and supplies, including those for your son. You say goodbye to your son and his grandparents, and drive off as they wave to you. At the campsite, everyone realizes that something is missing. No, someone is missing: your son. The family is sad, the fun isn’t the same, and you regret ever using the threat of missing the camping trip as a consequence.


Once you made it, you had to follow through. You tried to get out of it by convincing yourself the next few door slams didn’t meet the standard of a real “slam.” But that just made things worse, because your word became unreliable. But in this world of unreliable people, children need their parents to be reliable. They need and (without realizing it, want) your word to be reliable, even it if means they experience an unwanted consequence. If you don’t follow through, they’ll test you every time.


If you follow through sometimes, and other times you don’t, your child will test you. If you never follow through, the child will test you. The only way the child won’t test you is if you follow through with your offer of a consequence (or reward) every time. If you have a history of not being 100% in this area, and then switch to 100%, expect your child to test you for some time, but then stop. Children don’t like wasting their time, their words, or their energy trying to change your mind when they know it can’t be done.


At a time when you are calm and bear no anger or frustration with your child’s behavior, plan out behavioral consequences for your child that are measured and won’t negatively impose on you, the family, or others. Consequences should never remove healthy activities or healthy coping mechanisms. These can include social interaction with healthy peers and friends, exercise and play activity, reading, eating healthy food and portions, laughing, learning, serving others, playing musical instruments alone and with others, healthy physical interaction (hugs, etc.), and time with pets. Consequences should be prepared in advance to limit time with electronics, video games, and television/videos/internet, etc. Consequences can also involve the opportunity to serve others by completing chores that inconvenience the child, but greatly help the other family members who normally have to complete those chores. Try preparing a “Consequence Contract” with your children, and include their input, so they participate in the decision making process regarding the consequences they will face after misbehaving. You can offer the child two or three choices for each consequence that applies to each behavioral violation. When both parents and children agree on the terms of the contract, have all parties sign it.


During the moment of the violation, while anger and frustration are present, never administer consequences or admonishing words. Doing that makes you appear weak to the child. The applicable consequence from the contract tfor that violation simply goes into effect. There is no need to say it. By not saying it, and waiting a few days to speak to the child calmly about the violation, you come from a position of strength. One note on “time-outs” – these are used only when the child is out of control and need to calm down. Once the outburst is over (usually just a few minutes), the time-out is over. Time-outs are not a consequence when there is relative calm, and they are always over right when calm is restored.


Prepare the consequences in advance, and consider the duration of the consequence. In general, something like losing  privileges for online activity should only last a day or two (less for younger children and longer for older children, but never a month or several months). Match up the consequences to the behavioral violation ahead of time, so you’re not offering consequences in the heat of the moment.


NBA (National Basketball Association) officials must be reading this thinking they wish they would have known these principles before suspending Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors for a key game during the NBA Finals in 2016. Many feel the Warriors would have won that game if Draymond Green had played. He did not. The Warriors lost that game, and lost the series and the championship to the Cleveland Cavaliers.


The NBA implemented a consequence for a player who accumulated seven violations of a certain type during the playoffs. The consequence should never have been that a star player (or any player) would miss a game. After Draymond Green had his sixth violation, you could see the officials letting certain behavior go without penalty. Draymond was getting away with certain behaviors. Finally, the officials called a seventh violation on Draymond, and regrettably, had to follow through with the consequence. NBA officials need to come up with a different consequence for players who accumulate multiple violations–one that never includes missing a game (and thus altering the outcome of the championship, and depriving the fans the entertainment they expect).


We will all face times when we make mistakes with consequences and need to change them. When this happens, simply explain to your child that you made a mistake by matching up that consequence to that particular behavior violation. You can tell your child that there is a more fitting and helpful “discipline” that applies, and that you’re changing it on the fly. Because you’re having to backtrack on the consequence, expect your child to test you in the near future. Your child will stop testing you as soon as a new pattern of reliability and consistency in administering consequences is applied.


There will also be times when you don’t follow through on something–when you let the child off with a lighter consequence. These moments also invite the child to test you in the future, so expect that and don’t fault the child for it. It will also stop when you go back to demonstrating reliability and consistency regarding consequences.


– Chris Jackson




Chris Jackson

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