consequence: something that happens as a result of a particular action or set of conditions
punishment: to make (someone) suffer for a crime or for bad behavior
I recently went to a mini-seminar hosted by Bayou City Mamas (it’s a mommy group that offers a bunch of different events. It’s awesome. You should check it out) and featured speaker Dr. Deborah Fry.
Dr. Fry was giving information about delivering consequences instead of punishments to children and why it is more effective. I wanted to share some of the information I got from Dr. Fry because I plan (and have) on implementing some of the tactics with my own son.
First, if you aren’t already aware of this, setting boundaries helps children feel safe. Parents have to set boundaries starting early or they will lose control of their child and their child will lose control of his or herself. When these boundaries are crossed, children really don’t know what will happen so it’s our job as parents to show them. This is where the consequence and punishment comes in.
According to Dr. Fry, consequences work better than punishments, and consequences do not make your children afraid of you; instead they will view you as an authority figure. Punishments, on the other hand, create a sense of fright and foreboding. I am by no means saying your should never punish your child with a spanking because sometimes that’s what’s needed, but I think you should try teaching with consequences first.
Try and set your child’s day up with the same schedule he or she follows at school. If you are a stay-at-home parent, you can find some really great schedules on Pinterest. Most days consist of a hands-on or active activity and then something that is calm and requires them to sit, and this is a continuous cycle throughout the day. Most schools should be able to provide you with the classroom schedule.
One helpful tip is trying to prevent the unwanted behavior before it even starts. Dr. Fry suggests these four things:
1. Ask for the behaviors you want to see. Ex: “Instead of hitting and yelling when you get angry, tell me how you are feeling so we can solve the problem together.”
2. Use a firm and kind tone. I think every parent can be accused of screaming at their child at least once. I know I have done it far too many times. If you slow down and allow yourself a breath, you can get your point across by using a tone of voice that is lower, but has a solid tone.
3. Ask for what we “need.” Instead of your child throwing a tantrum when they lose patience with something, show them how to display their emotions and to ask for help.
4. Helping them through transitions. This means changes that take place, and can be anything from moving to a different home or divorce. Your child isn’t going to automatically know what is happening so you will need to guide them through the process.
You should also be teaching conflict resolution skills. Your child is going to continue to need and learn these skills for the rest of their life, so why not start young? Practice showing them how to take turns. This is a tough one for children who don’t have siblings. You can practice with you and your child playing together and trading toys. It’s important for them to be able to listen and hear another person’s view. You can use the “It upsets me when…” or “When you act like that, Mommy feels…” Two of the most important skills in conflict resolution (I think) are being able to communicate his or her thoughts without losing control and taking responsibility/accountability for their actions. These are going to take practice over time, and some adults haven’t even mastered these skills.
A good way to let your children know what type of behavior you expect of them is to post a list of your family’s most important values so they can easily see them.Work together on creating this so your children will feel like they need to take a responsibility to adhere to them. Some of my ideas I had about this because my son is only 3.5 is to draw pictures instead of using words (he obviously can’t read yet). I can also refer to the drawing when he is not displaying the proper behavior. I’ll have to check back in later and let everyone know how this is going.
Dr. Fry then provided some sentence frames of how to speak to your children. This first one was created by Becky Bailey (beckybailey.com):
“You wanted ____ so you ____. Do not _____. That’s _____. When you want _____ say _____. (You would say it to your child and have your child repeat it back to you.)
Ex: “You wanted a cookie so you yelled at Mommy. Do not yell at Mommy. That’s mean. When you want a new toy say, ‘Can I please have a cookie?'”
The next few are from Dr. Fry herself:
“If you ____ again, that tells me you will need to/want to _____.”
Ex: “If you hit again, that tells me you will need to go to time out.” “If you hit again, that tells me you want to go sit in your room.”
“What will happen if you ____?” OR “Do you understand what you will be choosing?” These allow you to implement the consequences.
“I see you have chosen to ____.” (Keep the consequence simple. Such as only reading one book at bedtime instead of two.)
“I want to hear your thoughts. What do you think should happen the next time you forget our agreement to ____?” Your child will create their own consequence with this one.
The most important thing to remember with all of these is to be consistent and to actually follow through on your word.
I started implementing these the very next day after the mini-seminar and they do really seem to be helping, and it’s only been two days! I think I just wasn’t giving my son enough credit. I know he’s smart, but I didn’t think he would be able to handle these types of consequences.
My fingers are crossed that these tactics will help with the behavior issues we have been struggling with lately.
Websites to visit for more information: