Punishments vs. Consequences: Which Are You Using?


Do these situations sound familiar? Your 10-year-old won’t listen to you when  you  tell her to come inside for dinner. You  rack your brain for a way to  change this behavior so that in the future she  will do as you ask. Your  teenager breaks  curfew – again. You thought you had  addressed this with him  the last time he got home late, but here you go  again. As parents, we know the   importance of parenting from our principles, things like teaching our children   to own up to their actions and face the fallout when they make poor  choices.  And you’ve tried.  You’ve talked to your child over and  over, you’ve  explained your reasoning repeatedly. You’ve given them  restrictions, taken  things away and grounded them for a month. Yet nothing  seems to be getting  through. It could be time to look at the  difference  between punishing your child and using consequences.

“Consequences  help all of us learn and grow. When kids experience the effects of their  actions, they get the chance to learn from their mistakes, make better choices  and improve their behaviors.”


What  Are Consequences? Consequences are things that flow  naturally  from one’s choices, actions and decisions. There can be “bad” and “good” natural consequences. If you overeat, the consequence can be a  stomach  ache. But if you are kind to someone, they’ll likely be kind in return.  Consequences help all of us learn and grow. When kids experience the effects of  their actions,  they get the chance to learn from their mistakes, make better  choices and  improve their behaviors. Consequences  also give us the chance to  parent from our principles instead of from a place  of frustration, anger or  disappointment.

Related: Raising Responsible Kids: A Step-by-Step   Approach

Consequences  Are Different from Punishments Punishment  says to your child: you’d better  think like me, or else. If you don’t, I  will  make you pay (or suffer) until you make the choice I want you to make. A   punishment doesn’t respect the child’s right to make a decision, even if that   decision is a poor one. It arises out of  anger and fear and often looks like a  withdrawal of love in order to get the  child to do what you want them to do.  This approach doesn’t help kids develop  new ways of taking responsibility for  their behavior. It can also be  destructive to the relationship.

Consequences, on the other hand, communicate  to your child that their  behavior is their choice and their responsibility. And that your responsibility  is to help them learn  how to face the results of their choices, no matter how  difficult or unpleasant. A consequence respects the child’s right to  make a  decision, even if it’s not a good one. It’s not a withdrawal of love or  a  rejection. It’s a matter-of-fact learning experience in which you maintain a   better relationship with the child as you hold them accountable.

Let’s look at a common situation to  illustrate how providing consequences is  different from delivering punishment. Your 13-year-old doesn’t call to check-in  and  let you know where he is. In the past,  his punishment was to lose his cell  phone for a couple of days. Yes, that might have taught him that when you  don’t  act responsibly you can lose privileges.   But what it didn’t teach him is how to act more responsibly.  So how can  using consequences make  a difference here?

Take the same scenario, but before you  decide how to respond first ask  yourself:  What is it that I want him to  learn and improve? You  probably want him to learn to follow your  instructions and do what he is told,  which in this case was to call. You also  want him to improve by consistently  remembering to do it.    To  motivate and guide your son to  better behaviors, the consequence could be that  he will only be allowed to go  out with friends on the coming weekend and only for  an hour.  During that  time he must  remember to call you and let you know where he is.  If he  does this successfully both Saturday  and Sunday, he can return to going out for  longer periods of time.  What he’s learning is that privilege (going  out  with friends) comes with responsibility (calling to check-in).  What he’s  getting is the chance to practice and  demonstrate to you both is that he can be  trusted to do as he’s supposed to.

Or maybe your daughter doesn’t do her  assigned chores. What do you want her  to  learn and practice? A natural  consequence may be that you do not feel the  goodwill to take her shopping.  Instead, she is assigned extra jobs to help  you out around the house.  From this she  learns that when she doesn’t do  her part, others may not have the time or interest  to go out of their way for  her. Having to help more around the house will let  her practice doing her part  and to appreciate that not meeting her  responsibilities can cause problems for  others.

It’s  Not Working! Of course, consequences are only  effective  if your child buys in and decides to change. It can be  frustrating to hear that, but ultimately their behavior is up to  them.  Maybe your son will eventually get tired of not  having his  cell phone and decide he’d rather check-in on schedule. Maybe. That’s  up to him. Your job is to consistently hold him accountable  through  consequences, whether or not he decides to change.

It’s easy when you are feeling exasperated  with your child to resort to  doing things like using increasingly extreme  consequences, attempting to  control him or her through anger or distance, or  just giving up. Resist that   temptation!  It can help to keep in mind  the underlying reason why you are  trying so hard–you genuinely want to help guide your child.  By   showing your child what they can expect in life when they make poor choices, the  consequences are working, regardless of how your child responds.   Whether or not your child’s behavior changes  is their choice.   Your  responsibility is  to keep reality front and center, whether your child cares to  see it or not.

Related: Can’t stay calm  when disciplining your  child?

Tips for Creating Effective Consequences

  • Pause and be thoughtful– In order to provide  consequences that help your child learn, take your  time thinking it  through. Tell your child you will get  back to him or her as  to what the consequence will be.  Think about what it is that you hope he  or she  will learn.  What is your goal?
  • Be consistent – You  can’t make your  child change, but you can make sure you consistently provide  consequences when  you see him or her making poor choices. Stick  to  it, despite any opposition, unhappiness or lack of noticeable change in   behavior.
  • Be mindful – Stay  focused on you doing your  job and let your child do his or hers. Your job is to  guide your child by  providing reasonable and realistic consequences. Your  child’s job is to decide  how he or she will respond to what you provide and  expect.
  • Be matter of fact – Think of providing  consequences like conducting a business deal.   It’s  about facts, not emotions.   Don’t take their behavior personally, which is  hard, I know.  Yelling, cajoling, criticizing and nagging won’t  work over  the long run and will only get you more frustrated and upset.  Focus on how  you are going to behave, no  matter how they act.
  • Accept your limits – When we accept that  we can’t make our children behave a certain way, we  actually have a greater  chance of successfully influencing their  behavior.  When our children don’t have to use their  energy to get us off  their back, they will have a clearer mind, less anxiety and  be better able to  make reasonable decisions.   Remember that the consequences that you  consistently hand them will help  positively shape them.
  • Use “I” not “You” Statements – Taking an  “I” position is better than taking a “You” position when it comes to providing  consequences. Children respond better  when they know where their parents stand  on an issue rather than when they are  being bossed.  For example, saying “I will not listen when  you speak to me  like that” delivers a clearer message about what is acceptable than  “You had  better stop speaking to me like that.”

Read more: http://www.empoweringparents.com/punishments-vs-consequences-which-are-you-using.php#ixzz39BtAEx4B

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