Parents often give a lot of consequences, but consequences are not always the best way to change behavior.
While consequences have their place, there are limitations to the effectiveness of consequences to change a child’s behavior. In today’s podcast, ADHD Parenting Coach Siope Kinikini shares with parents what those limitations are and what they can do instead.
If parents only use consequences, it could create this environment where they internalize the negative behavior and believe that the reason they are getting all these consequences is because they are bad.
The best way to create long-last change is to focus on the positive things that your child is doing by creating an environment where we can recognize kids for what they do well and reward them when they do. For many parents, this is a mind-shift that takes some getting used too, but creating an environment where you have more positive interactions than negative with your kids will strengthen your relationship and create a happier home environment. Focusing on positives helps a child reach their full potential.
Giving kids rewards and consequences isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Children learn at different rates, and what works for one child will not work for others. It’s okay to switch up the rewards or consequences to fit your child and their needs.
Figuring out what behavior we can reward our children for and what action needs a consequence can be tricky. We encourage you to sign up for a free Parenting Coaching session where we can help you work through your specific situation and individual needs.
In this episode, I will be discussing effective consequences. This is part two of the series.
This is episode 84. Let’s begin.
Smarter Parenting welcomes you to our podcast series, The Parenting Coach for ADHD. Here to heal and elevate lives is your Parenting Coach, Siope Kinikini.
Hello, my friends. How are you? I hope everybody is doing well. Things are going well here. Here at Smarter Parenting. There’s so much going on and so many new things that will be coming on the horizon, and I’m excited to share them with you as we start to roll them out. There will be some additional skills that we are adding on to Smarter Parenting to help assist you in your goals in helping your children. So, a lot of things that are happening and I’m super grateful for that.
Today, we are continuing our discussion on Effective Negative Consequences. And today I wanted to talk to you about the limitations of consequences when you’re using that to shape the behavior of your children.
Now, I have received a lot of phone calls over the last couple of weeks talking to parents who want to focus on consequences as a way to correct behaviors. So this whole podcast is entirely focused on the limitations of using consequences as a way to correct your children’s behavior.
What I hope you glean from this is that there are more ways to change your child’s behavior other than using consequences. Now consequences do have a place, but there are other intervention techniques that you can use. For example, Effective Positive Rewards is a way that you can help shape a child’s behavior and improve their behavior in the long run, which is actually longer sustaining than Effective Negative Consequences.
So, that’s what I am going to be talking about during this podcast. If you haven’t listened to the previous podcast on Effective Negative Consequences, I highly recommend you go back and take a listen to it because it’s important. There are some important things and we continue on here.
So let’s talk. Let’s talk about coaching. Let’s talk about some of the questions that have come up. I received a phone call last week from a couple who were discussing ways that they could intervene with their children. They have four children, and there’s only one child that they’re focused on because he tends to act out more than the other children. And they were looking for consequences. In fact, that was the very first thing that they asked me about.
They said, “What are the consequences? How can we punish this child in order to help our child behave?” And I had to take a step back and go, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let’s evaluate this for a minute. Let’s figure out exactly in what way we can help this child change their behavior.” And consequences is part of that.
However, it’s not the entire piece of that. And so in talking to these parents, I emphasized, we can use consequences. In fact, let’s do use some consequences for the negative behaviors. However, let’s also approach it from multiple sides to see if there are other ways that we can help this child. Now, this child was just defiant. And in fact, highly jealous of his siblings whenever they received a reward because these parents would reward positive behaviors. But because this one child for some reason would act out, they wouldn’t reward him for that behavior.
It’s logical. You don’t want to reward a child for negative behaviors. You don’t want to do that. You want to set up an environment where they do well and they’re rewarded for that. And when they are not doing well, then they don’t receive the same reward as children who do receive a reward for positive behaviors, right? We’re not here to give participation trophies for positive behaviors. We’re here to reinforce positive behaviors.
So they came to me and they were asking about consequences. All they wanted was a list of consequences they could just continually drive into this child. That made me worried for a moment until I heard that they were able to give rewards for positive behaviors. And so I said, “Okay, well, let’s look at this in multiple ways.”
Let me tell you what the limitations are with using consequences as the only way to correct a child’s behavior. Effective Negative Consequences, if you do them effectively, will teach your child. But just applying consequences, just throwing consequences at your child to help shape a behavior may be more damaging in the long run because it teaches your child to focus in on the negative behaviors that are happening. It focuses the child on their behavior, which in turn focuses the meaning of the consequence to them internally as children. So they can internalize this idea that I’m a bad child, therefore, I receive all these consequences for my negative behaviors.
And it doesn’t allow them the out for any of the positive behaviors they may exhibit. Children don’t just behave badly all the time. There are snippets of goodness that they’re doing throughout the day, even with the most difficult child. And being able to recognize those snippets of good behaviors is a powerful way to help introduce more positive interactions with your child. So while I was talking to these parents about incorporating some positive rewards as well as Effective Negative Consequences, we came to this conclusion that they would need to also incorporate some positive interactions with their child in order to build the relationship and also help their child realize, “Hey, I can do well. I can actually do things well. If I can focus, I can get some affirmation from my parents.”
This is the goal is to help our children be successful. The goal is to help them become responsible adults, to help them understand the world in which they live, and to make good choices. Now, these parents aren’t bad. And in fact, they’re not negative either. They’re very positive. With their three other children, they were able to do well with chore charts and follow through. But with this one child, it was always focused on the negative behaviors. And so we had to take some time to step back and focus in on teaching versus punishing.
And the example that I gave to them is the prison system here in the United States. The prison system is highly consequence. I mean, these are a consequence for your negative behaviors. We’re going to lock you up. And there’s not a lot of reformation that is happening in the prison systems. I’m not saying that there is not any, but I am saying it’s limited.
And so in working with the child, we are not working with a child that has a fully developed mind that can process information and do really well with that. We are actually working with a child who needs to figure things out. And so we want to help teach them what they need to do rather than just punish them for their behavior. So the approach was okay, we’re dealing with a child who has some very specific needs. And what we do with children who have very specific needs is we find accommodations to help them reach their potential and what they need to do. And so that’s why we were talking about Effective Positive Rewards for this child as well.
So we were going to marry the two with this couple. We are going to provide consequences for negative behaviors, but we’re also going to focus in on teaching. And when we could provide a positive reward, we would. And then for the negative behaviors, we provide an effective consequence for that, but also drive them and focus this child on, “Hey, if you’re able to comply with the rules, then you can receive a positive reward for it.” Right?
So let me give you an example of what is going on. This child, according to his parents, seem to always get jealous of a particular sibling. When this sibling would do something well, this other child would act out and would try and shift all the attention. This child was more clingy and just wanted to be the focus of all the attention.
And so what we did was in working through a consequence was being able to have the parents provide a positive reward for the one-child while providing a consequence for the child who was behaving negatively, but also giving them the opportunity to earn a reward if they were able to comply with a positive behavior. Which would be, allow us to give him a positive reward, this other child. And if you’re able to sit still and do well, then we will also give you a reward for being able to do that. Specifically, one of the parents struggled with this because they thought, “Hey, well, I want to treat all my children equally.” I understand that, but children develop at different rates and children develop things differently.
And so being able to adjust and adapt to your child’s needs is essential if you have multiple children. The idea that we’re going to just do everything kind of cookie-cutter would not be helpful in this instance. And actually it’s not helpful in a lot of cases. Children are on different levels and they have different needs and there are different things that are happening in their lives. So being adaptable to that, we needed to talk through and work through that. Eventually, he was able to come aboard and say, “Hey, okay, I understand this child has this specific need and this child has this specific need. Let’s focus in on what those needs are and how we can address those together.”
So the skill that we were going to work on with this younger child who tends to be more jealous was to have that child sit still whenever any of his siblings would receive a reward. And they practiced it, they had to Role-play it multiple times. And they had to also stick the reward up there and saying, “Hey, if you’re able to sit still and let us do this and allow us time to communicate how proud we are and grateful we are for this child, we will do the same for you for your ability to sit still.
Yeah, to sit still. So these parents are praising their child for sitting still. Now, this was a hard pill to swallow for this dad because he’s like, “Why should I praise my child for sitting still?”
Let me tell you something, okay? If that’s the level your child is on, then meet your child at the level they’re on. Praise him for that. Provide a consequence as well, but always have a positive reward for the behavior you want available. The limitations of consequences, my friends, are that they are punitive. They can cause self-esteem issues in your child. And what you are trying to do is teach your child through the consequences. I know the intentions of all parents is to help their children become successful. I know that I feel that in my core, I know that that’s their desire. However, you have to evaluate how you’re going to go about teaching your children.
You cannot use a one stick fits all approach, or a one tool fits all approach. You have to look at your child and their needs and figure out what is it that I want my child to learn and in what way will they learn it better? Will it be through Effective Negative Consequences or do I need to use Effective Positive Rewards in addition to that, or can I address it with Effective Positive Rewards?
Among the skills we can use, we can also use Effective Positive Rewards which is a skill that is counter to Effective Negative Consequences, but actually yields more results. You can find that giving rewards, based on positive behaviors, reinforces that behavior and makes it easier for the child to change and adjust and become more of what it is that the parent wants them to become. If I was actually working with a child in using additional behavioral interventions and skills, I actually would focus on a lot on Effective Positive Rewards more than I would on Effective Negative Consequences. Because remember, negative consequences or Effective Negative Consequences is meant to decrease a behavior, where Effective Positive Rewards is meant to increase positive behavior. So lets always move everything over to more positive. To things that are beneficial to your child and that they feel rewarded for. That’s going to have a longer-lasting effect for your child.
The longer-lasting effect that you want is a positive interaction when you’re teaching your children how to behave, how to change their behaviors, and consequences don’t always teach that. In fact, consequences can mire your child down with a lot of relationship issues and a lot of trust issues as well.
What I am saying is consequences have a time and a place. But you, as a parent, need to take a step back and evaluate a situation and say, “Can this behavior, can what I want my child to do be addressed better with something else, or does it have to be a consequence?”
And my rule overall, at least for me, in what I’ve seen with the different families that I’ve worked with is that consequences should be used sparingly. Yeah. You heard it from me. Consequences should be used sparingly because there are a lot of other ways to help deal with your children. Consequences are not the only way. And if you are able to teach your child in another way, do it. And if they’re unable to learn in those ways, then consequences do come into play and you can implement those.
So when I talk about limitations of consequences, they’re not something you can use for every situation. I want you to take that to heart. Consequences should not be your first tool to use when correcting a behavior. You should evaluate all the other tools you have. And we provide all those tools on Smarter Parenting. Effective Communication. We talk about Decision Making on there. We have Preventive Teaching. We have so many skills that you can use to help shape the behavior. And if everything else you’re doing is working towards this goal and your child continues to act out, then consequences should be there.
Now here’s another limitation of consequences that a lot of parents don’t realize is that when you provide a consequence, you actually are creating a contract between you and your child that you have to follow through with. So by saying, “Hey, I’m going to ground you for a month,” what you are also saying is, “Hey, I’m going to ground myself for a month because I have to follow through with that.”
Nobody wants to be grounded for a month. So evaluate what consequences will work and what consequences you can follow through with. Because if you give a consequence and you cannot follow through with it, then what it teaches your child is, “Hey, I can get away with whatever I want. There’s inconsistency here.”
And I’m not blaming your child as being like manipulative or anything, but children are like adults. We use the tools that we have within us in order to get what we want. So if they can find a tool that will get them what they want, they will use it. If you are unable to follow through, then that’s just another tool that they’re like, “Well, okay, I’m not going to follow through. So I’m just going to do what I want and not even worry about it.” So just understand your own limitations with consequences in the way that you implement consequences for your child. So there are definite limitations to consequences.
The other part is coming up with consequences because sometimes consequences can be too big. Sometimes they’re too small and they don’t mean anything. So evaluating, “Okay, what is the fair consequence for the behavior I’m dealing with?” You want to match those equally.
Now, I’ve talked about this before on the five things that make consequences effective. And I think it’s important to go over them again because repetition is always helpful. And also for our friends who are listening to us for the first time, there are five specific things that make Effective Negative Consequences work. The first one is that it needs to be immediate.
Consequences should be given as soon as possible after the negative behavior to help your child connect the consequence with their behavior. This is specifically important for children who are young, because if they can connect that, “Hey, my behavior happened, then this consequence happened,” they make a connection.
The second thing is degree or size, how big or how small, which is what I was referring to earlier. You need to be sure that the consequence fits the behavior. If your child does something small and you’re saying, “I’m going to ground you for a month,” it doesn’t match. There’s a disconnect there. You want to be sure that they match. If they do something small, then give them an extra chore rather than a big, huge consequence.
The third thing is consistency, which I’ve also talked about. You need to be consistent. If you cannot follow through with the consequence, it teaches your child that there’s an inconsistency here and they can get away with it again. And you’re going to be dealing with more problems down the road. So be aware. Evaluate. Can you be consistent?
The fourth thing is that the consequence needs to be important to your child. This needs to be something that is of value to your child in order to help shape and change the behavior.
And then the last thing is varied. You need to switch up the consequences by using a variety of consequences for different negative behaviors. So the same consequence for everything becomes less effective. Let’s say that your child misbehaves in one instance at school, so you ground them. And then they do something else with friends after school like they don’t come home in time for curfew, then you provide the same consequence. And then you’re using the same consequence for every behavior that they exhibit. Doing that doesn’t make consequences effective. So you tailor-make it to what your child needs.
So again, to make an Effective Negative Consequence work, you need to have all these five things to consider. And it’s a lot of work to be able to evaluate that. Not only as your child is young, but as your child grows because of their needs and their abilities and their perceptions all change.
And so you need to revisit this consistently as you’re addressing behaviors. Effective Negative Consequences do have a place. What I am saying is there are also other alternatives to help shape the behavior and you have to step back and ask yourself, “What do I want to teach my child?” That’s what you need to ask first. And then second, “In what way can I teach my child effectively? What skill, what parenting skill on the Smarter Parenting website can I use in order to teach that behavior?” And if implementing a consequence is that skill, then be sure you have those five elements. If you can teach that skill by using a different parenting skill, then try it and use it and do it because we’re looking for positive interactions.
We’re looking for parents and children to connect. We’re looking for opportunities to help parents and children work together and to build a strong foundation of trust with each other. That’s the goal. That’s what we’re trying to do.
So we’ve talked a lot about consequences and the limitations of consequences. Again, I reiterate, there is a place for consequences, but it shouldn’t be your first stop. Now to the parents that I was working with their child who is jealous, I did receive a follow-up email stating, hey, they felt inspired by this idea that each child needs their own individual approach in helping them understand things and that doing things the same for every child would not be helpful because they’re at different levels.
And so they were Role-playing this whole process of what they wanted their child to do. And they were going to issue a consequence, but also couple that with a reward if the child is able to follow through with that. And what gives me great joy in hearing that is that they’re not stuck in this idea because when they first called, all they wanted was a list of consequences they could give for behaviors. That’s all they wanted. Now they’re thinking out of the box, they’re thinking, “Hey, okay, what are some additional ways that we can approach this and be effective?” And that’s what I want for you.
Now, this is the power of coaching. So sign up for coaching on the Smarter Parenting website. I am here. I want to coach you through these things and your issues specifically and individually. Let’s walk through what’s happening with your family so we can find ways that you can engage and work with them in a positive and healthy way. That’s it for me, and I will talk to you again next week.
PODCASTS MENTIONED IN THIS PODCAST