Every parent wants to know what to do when the kids do the wrong thing. For many generations parents have tended to focus on punishing children – this has created a desire in the children to avoid doing the wrong thing in order to avoid the punishment.  This is not the type of parent I want to be – I want my children to choose to do the right thing because they know it is right, because it lines up with the morals that they hold to.  This means that we have to teach our children moral values as well as moral behaviour.  They have to know the right thing for themselves – we then help them line their actions up with the morals.

When our child steps outside of the moral boundaries that we set for our family, the issue isn’t that our child is bad and they need a punishment, the issue is that we, as parents, need to continue to teach and train our child to make wiser choices. (* if this statement concerns you please do read the explanation at the end of the article).  And though the child has done the wrong thing reality is how parents handle it from then on is going to be a huge factor in how our children learn the appropriate lesson.

[Tweet “Most of parenting has to do with the heart and choices of the parent! “]

 

Parents must do their homework first

We must do our part before we can expect our children to grow and mature.

–Discern the child’s heart; what’s really going on, is it a heart issue or lack of skill/ability?

–Have you taught and practiced the right responses? We must model, teach, practice and then we can expect our children to make appropriate choices.  Doesn’t mean they always will but we do first of all need to be sure that we’ve given them the ability to make the right choice.

–Are you calm? If you are not calm you do not have the right to teach your child to make right choices.  Deal with the issue in your heart first – and then help them deal with their issues.

–Know what you want your child to learn from this experience – what was missing in their thinking, or choices that enabled them to do this ‘wrong’ thing. This is the key to anything that you do from now on in.

This last point is so important.  If we don’t know what we want our child to learn from this experience we will be just punishing them for inconveniencing or embarrassing us.  Alternatively when we know what moral choice or action was missing in our child’s life we have something very concrete to teach them – and to help us find the right strategies to use in teaching them.

Learn to give effective consequences

Consequence choice #1: Time out

There is much discussion about time out – is it cruel, does it work?  It depends if it is used as a punishment or as a tool to help your child.  Using it as a punishment opens the door for resentment and the child hasn’t learnt anything, or at least not anything helpful to their moral maturity.  But using time out as a tool to help your child looks totally different than normal time out.

The way I use time out is giving the child time away from people and activity, away from distractions so they can think about their heart and change their attitude.  The child determines how long time out lasts – if they want to stay grumpy or angry (toddler to teenager) then they can stay in time out for as long as they need to get back to being willing to make good choices.

Time out is actually my Go To Consequence. When my child is finished in time out I want them to first of all have a different attitude to me, or to whomever they were reacting against.  If they are old enough to talk about their heart issues I want them to be able to confess what they did, why it was wrong, and what they should have done.  I want them to be ready to apologise to anyone who they hurt by their choices and I want them ready to go forth doing good!

But sometimes there are repercussions from their choices that will need to be worked through once they have a good attitude.  These repercussions (or consequences) will reinforce that moral truth that they forgot when they make their initial choice.

 

Consequence choice #2: Loss of whatever was involved.

The key here is to connect the removing of something to the poor choice.  We can remove possessions or activities, but there must be some reason why we take something away from our kids.  It is kind of like the punishment must fit the crime, except we don’t want to just punish them we want them to learn.

 

Consequence choice #3: Work to put it right (restitution)

Poor choices usually damage something; they may damage a relationship, possessions or people’s plans.  Our children need to see the repercussions of their choices and they need to be made responsible for putting things right.  Once again this isn’t a punishment but rather a learning process where they start to value the right thing and see the repercussions of making poor choices.

 

The Consequence choice that is missing:

In the past smacking has been seen as the ‘biggest’ tool parents have – it is their fall-back and often their immediate response regardless of anything.  Not only is smacking frowned upon in society (and in some places actually banned) it often isn’t wise parenting.  It falls into the category of punishment where what the children need is to be taught, trained, reminded and established in their ability to know what is right and make choices accordingly. If you are using smacking as a key tool – please reconsider and know that there are other tools out there that will teach and train your children’s hearts.

 

Think about Consequences:

You can find blog posts and books written on all the different consequences that you can give your kids.  The thing is if consequences are to teach your child something in the situation they have got themselves in – there is no way anyone other than you, the parent there on the job in that moment in time, can assess what is going to teach your child’s heart.  This is why I’ve tried to narrow it down to three options – time out, loss of something, restitution.

What is the flow on effect of your child’s choices and how are you going to teach him / her to make better choices?  These are the questions you need to think about before giving a consequence.

If you need to retrain yourself to think before you react – download my parenting worksheet to help you think through the issue and find an appropriate consequence.  The link is below…

[Tweet “The purpose of a consequence is to teach our child why and how to do the right thing.”]

*I’m not saying that our children are inherently good – they are sinners and need a saviour.  Once they know Jesus and desire to please him, then our parenting has an extra dimension – but each and every person has a spiritual, moral, emotional, social, intellectual and physical capacity.  When we are teaching and training our children to do the right thing we are teaching and training their moral capacity – that is their ability to understand and act upon what is right.  Each civilisation has a moral aspect regardless of their standing with God.

 

Do you need help in your Family?

Hi! I’m Belinda

About Me

HI I'm Belinda - welcome to my online space. I am a family life coach and help parents to raise their kids with faith, values and life skills in a way that is intentional, relational and heart focused. I am married to Peter, and live in the far north-west of Australia on a small farm. We have four adult children whom we homeschooled from prep-year 12. They've all left home now. But over the years I have taught and supported mums and dad (both face to face and online). I am passionate about families being a strong and healthy unit that helps the individual to grow but also celebrates the community of family.

Certified Life Coach

Learn to give effective consequences

Bonus worksheets and parenting cheatsheet 

Over to you:

What is your go to plan when your kids do something unwise?

13 Comments

  1. Betty

    That is so true. I found that out early. Once my one child’s consequence was not to watch a certain TV program. She let me know she did not like that program anyway. So although my other children liked it, I needed to find a consequence befitting for her. All children are definitely not a like.

    Reply
    • Belinda

      Ha! that’s funny – probably wasn’t so funny for you at the time!! Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
  2. Maria

    Great points, Belinda. I think it’s important to realize that the punishment must fit the consequence that comes with it. Whether that’s a time out or restitution, it’s not always a one size fits all deal. And these choices are a great reminder of that.

    Thanks for sharing this on #SHINEbloghop this week! So lovely of you to join us 🙂

    Reply
  3. Amanda

    I have taught kids, mainly preschoolers, my whole life. I never thought of disciplining as teaching them morals. This was a good read and got me thinking about how I want to approach my child.

    Reply
  4. Amanda

    I love that you point out that punishment is not the thing that teaches our children right from wrong – it is the time we take to talk about right and wrong and to SHOW our kids how to live it out. I don’t always do it well (I was raised on the punishment method and sometimes in anger I revert to those primitive days) but I strongly believe in the Positive Discipline model for raising my kids. They also encourage time out as a cooling-off tool instead of a punishment. My parents and other (older) family members were surprised when I announced there would be no spanking at my house (when at grandma and grandpa’s house one or the other has said “You’ll get a spanking!” and they get blank looks from my kids) but 5 years later I don’t have perfect kids but they are way better behaved than I EVER was! (That’s either an endorsement for Positive Discipline or a confession that I was very naughty…or both.) Great post, going to share it all over!

    Reply
    • Belinda

      🙂 thanks Amanda. The thing is spanking never created perfect kids either! Of course our goal is not perfect kids but rather kids who desire to do what is right. Thanks for sharing this post around.

      Reply
  5. Heather

    My oldest is at an age where I am starting to see that her whole day can play into a hot mess in the evening. It can be really difficult when I come home from work and I have no idea what has happened throughout her day. I will ask her how her day was and most of the time she will just say, “fine” when she really isn’t “fine”. It can be something as simple as the teacher doing something that in her little mind has offended her and it can set the stage for a melt down that evening.
    Instead of flying off the handle, I have begun to ask more pointed questions about her day. Like, who did you play with today? What do did you do in art class? What about gym? And 8 of 10 times with a little prodding a story will come spilling out about how maybe somebody said something mean to her or did something mean. One day she even told me how she kept looking at a coloring page she had done earlier in the day and the teacher finally took it from her, crumpled it up and threw it in the trash. That was enough for her to have a bad day and be grumpy at home.
    I have been trying to take the time to talk about her day, really talk, and help her see how things through out her day can affect her whole attitude.

    Reply
    • Belinda

      Asking the right questions are amazing at opening up the little heart aren’t they! I empathise with her and having her art work crumpled up. poor thing. I am sure you are able to help her process as she talks. Well done for finding a strategy that is helpful. Thanks for sharing.

      Reply
  6. Lindsey

    I love this post Belinda! Have you ever read the book, How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk? It’s based on the same principles that you stated here. You should definitely check it out if not, I think you would like it! I’m tweeting and stumbling this!

    Reply
    • Belinda

      Thanks for that book recommendation Lindsey. No, I haven’t read it but I’m always on the lookout for books with helpful and real advice.

      Reply
  7. Nicole

    Belinda, I love your consequence options. They are along the lines of what I’ve been thinking and doing myself. But, our foundational problem in our home is obedience to simple instructions. Because of my determination to be a loving and nonviolent mother, my children have learned to disobey me continually. I cannot give an instruction and have it followed. How do I teach obedience to instructions? How do I implement time out with a middle age child or teenager who is too big for me to make go to timeout? When anger is high and there is contention, toward me or between them, I am desperate to make it stop, but am powerless to do so. They disobey my instructions to leave the room, or separate from each other. I have consequenced those actions, for years now, by restricting privileges or requiring restitution, but the behavior remains unchanged. I have worked on reaching their hearts. But I’m still missing the mark somehow. I guess I’m wondering what exactly you do to teach obedience?

    Reply
  8. Gilian

    Haven’t tried the time-out thing. It’s not common in our culture. Mostly the spanking, but I rarely do it. Speaking to my child and making him do the right thing that should be done usually works. Great tips here. =)

    Reply
    • Belinda

      Thanks Gilian – it is always fascinating to see how different cultures train their kids but when we stick to principles we share the same things. We want our kids hearts to understand why something is important, why it is right, why it is wrong and then we want them to have the internal motivation to choose that way. Thanks for visiting.

      Reply

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Further Reading:

My Go to Consequence:  My go-to consequence helps children consider their heart; afterall it is their heart that directs their choices.

What are Parents to do When Consequences don’t Work:  Consequences are to teach our children something but they don’t always work leaving parents wondering what to do next. We need to ask why.

How to See Attitude for What it is:  When we deal with the attitude in the heart our children will change their behaviour. It starts with seeing attitude for what it is.

It’s Easy to Think it is a Heart Attitude – but is it?  Parents need to discern between a heart attitude and a bad habit that need to be overcome. Download cheat sheet with 5 questions to help you discern.

 

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