If there is one aspect of parenting that parents always want to talk about it is discipline.  We have this unexpressed idea that if we could just have the perfect consequence then the kids would ‘get it’ and our training would be done!  Well, I’m sure we all know, really, that this isn’t the case!

First we need to clarify what we mean by these two words discipline and consequences: Discipline means to train and consequence is for the purpose of teaching.  If we vary from these ideas we end up with punishment and venting our frustration and anger.

There are four sequential steps towards training our children:  model, teach, practice, expect.  Each step takes time and it is unfair to the child to expect a certain behaviour before we have been through all steps thoroughly.  Parenting is not about giving an instruction and expecting a response.  Parenting is about teaching our children how to respond to life, to people and circumstances, and it takes our time.


It certainly involves giving instruction and expecting a response, but if that is our whole understanding of parenting, then we will create obedient children (often out of fear of your wrath) rather than children who have what it takes to respond to all sorts of people and situations –  even when you are not there.


The Go-to Consequence

So when someone asked me for a go-to consequence I had to smile and say, simply there is no such thing.

Then I had a second thought and realised that I did have a go-to consequence – and that is timeout, but timeout with a difference.

Timeout is often given as a punishment where the child is banished for a set amount of time.  This is not what I’m talking about because this type of timeout deals with the externals not the internal.  A child won’t change, won’t learn anything (remember our definitions of discipline and consequences) just by being removed.

Timeout can be a productive process – a process where the child gains self-control, reflects on the circumstance they were in, thinks about their choices and prepares to go forth and do well.


The Purpose of a Consequence

Unless we are helping our children do these things we are simply going through the actions of a timeout but it won’t change our children’s behaviour (because their heart has not been touched).  Our heart is the inner place the holds our beliefs, emotions, character, passions and it determines our will.

As parents we need to teach the heart – we need to help our children develop in their beliefs, emotions, passions, character and will.


What this looks like

So when our children behave inappropriately the first go-to consequence I use is timeout.  This means I remove the child from where they are.  Now I must say, not every negative behaviour requires me to do this – sometimes I just give a verbal reminder or correction (remembering not to humiliate the child publicly) but if they need more than this – I send them to timeout.

If the child is out of control – angry etc, then I’ll simply tell them they need to get self-control.  If it has been another issue – an attitude or an action – then I tell them they need to think about their actions, and what is in their heart.  Once they’ve either calmed down or had some thinking time I would go into their room, or to the space where they were sitting, and talk to them.  (If this is new vocab to your family you will need to find words that fit your family, or teach into these words.)

This of course will look different for different ages, and different maturity but the key things you want them to know are:

  • What you did that was wrong
  • Why was that wrong
  • What can you do to put it right
  • Who do you need to speak to
  • How could you handle things better next time
  • What about God? Do you need to talk to him?

When our children are young, they cannot answer all these questions – but by having these questions in our mind we can guide them towards an age appropriate response and in the process, we are teaching their hearts.

For a toddler/pre-schooler – who is in the early stages of gaining self-control and having a happy heart – this process looks different, but my intent is still the same.  I leave them in their timeout space to gain self-control or a happy heart.  Sometimes I would even sit with them, but I don’t engage with them, or try and cajole them to a smile.  When they are calm again, I remind them of what is expected in the given situation (obedience, kindness, happy) and we go and give it a go.

As my children have grown older we have been able to move away from a step by step process to the place where I can say:  I want you to think about what is going on here, about your heart and choices.

Sometimes they can fix their direction and choices really quickly, sometimes they still need time to sit away from distractions and sort it out.  Occasionally, they would then come to me and say, I don’t know how to sort this out, I don’t know what I could have done, I don’t know how to do the right thing.  But by the time they do this, they have sorted out their heart attitude and they want help, they want to do the right thing.

What happens after a timeout is as significant as the process itself.  Our children need to be prepared – in their will and awareness, to go back to the circumstance they were in and do the right thing.

Of course, the next question is – what if they don’t do the right thing then?  That is probably a whole other question – but the short of it is probably one of two things:

  • They went through the process, said the right words, but didn’t really change their heart – didn’t change their belief, emotions, passions, character, will.
  • There is something else going on – either you didn’t discuss the real issue, or they are tired, hungry, overwhelmed. Or they are simply unable to do the right thing at this time (it is an age or maturity-wise inappropriate expectation we are putting on them)

Timeout is a doable consequence wherever you are.  If you are out and about you can create a private space by going to a secluded place, by sitting in the car, or by just drawing your child onto your lap.  At home you can have a thinking-spot, or use your bed, or even your child’s bed (if they don’t play with the toys).

Timeout (or as I rather call it – reflective time out) is a go-to consequence because it deals with the heart.  It is not a punishment – but rather an opportunity to think about choices, attitudes, and actions.  It prepares our children to go and do the right thing.

PS Note:  there may well need to be other consequences to help teach them the right thing to do in a given situation, but time to think about their heart is always a good place to start.


Further Reading:

Heart Focus Parenting  This ebook is a collection of articles and snippets of thoughts that address the issue:  what is the heart and how does it affect our parenting?  Purchase here,  paper version also available for Australian readers (postage costs are ridiculous for overseas readers, sorry.)

Throughout the week I share with other blogs – check out my Link ups and Party page

Be Intentional

 Every week I'll email an encouragement to stay intentional and relational in all your family life.  But for now, download your set of reminder posters - posters which I've used over the years to remind me to keep my eyes and heart on what is important.

Thank you for joining me. You have successfully subscribed and will receive an email from me shortly. (You never know which folder emails will land in so keep an eye out for my "Thank you" email.) Stay in touch... Belinda - Live life with your Kids!

Download your worksheet and start working on your family vision statement.

Get the Family Vision Worksheet

I will email you the download link.

The download link is on it's way.

Individual Education Planning Worksheets - brainstorming every area of your child's life.

Get your Planning Worksheets

I will email you the download link so you can start looking at all the different spheres of your child's life before you make any curriculum choices. 

The download link is on it's way.

Get a copy of the Jelly Bean Story

I will email you a download link.  You can print and share this story with your kids and their friends.

The download link is on it's way.

This parent guide helps parents plan family bible study and use discussion techniques to teach the important lessons.

Bible study Guide for Parents

Guide includes tips, planning worksheet, and discussion prompts. I will email you a download link.  

Thanks for being here! The download link is on it's way.

Obedience looks a bit different as our kids grow older. Download this parent/teen discussion guide to understand this issue of obedience in teen years.

Download your Free Discussion Guide

Don't assume your kids are rebelling - instead talk to them about what Obedience looks like now they are older.  I will email you a download link.  

Thanks for being here! The download link is on it's way.

Download yourCharacter Certificates

Though true character is driven by internal motivation, our children will appreciate when we see that they are growing in character.

Thanks for being here! The download link is on it's way.

Download your Character Certificates

Though true character is driven by internal motivation, our children will appreciate when we see that they are growing in character.

The download link is on it's way.

Over 20 different verbal expressions divided into heart or self control to help parents discern these behaviours.

Download your Cheat Sheet

I will send you the link to download this cheat sheet that will help you discern between a heart attitude and a lack of skill.

Thanks for being here! The download link is on it's way.

Download Grow in Character Worksheets

Download Grow in Character Worksheets

I will email you the download link.

The download link is on it's way.

Download Grow in Character Worksheets

You will receive an email shortly with the details. Watch your inbox.

Thank you for being here - your download link will arrive shortly.

Pin It on Pinterest