Search

How To Set Consequences for Misbehavior that (Actually) Work


I get it - when our kids misbehave, it can be difficult to come up with appropriate consequences for their actions. Will taking away the iPad help? Canceling tomorrow’s playdate? How about no TV for a week? As our culture shifts away from physical and emotional punishment, moms and dads are looking for positive ways to correct behavior that are more effective, but less harsh than their own parents.


Often, this causes hesitancy in speaking up and setting much-needed boundaries for our children. However, what I have learned over the years is families get so caught up in whether consequences are severe enough, they lose sight of the goal of these consequences, which is to correct a child’s behavior and break patterns!


Using the Team Esteem Approach, I encourage parents to replace old, negative behaviors with new, practiced positive behaviors that create the change in children we want to see.


What does this look like? Let’s use a real-world example of a family I recently worked with. When Jake got news from his mom and dad that they would be bringing a new baby home, he experienced a range of emotions. With all the excitement and preparation around a new child, his family’s energy eventually caught on with him too.


But once his sister had been with them for a few weeks, things started to change. Jake noticed her getting all the attention, as relatives from all over the world FaceTimed his parents to say how cute she looked and how excited they were to meet her. Even his parents seemed to deviate their focus almost entirely toward changing diapers, loading up car seats and feeding his sister (who could blame them- babies are hard work!).


Then came Jake’s misbehavior. At first it was a couple of missed homework assignments, but then quickly grew into loud arguments with mom and dad at home, and with teachers at school. Jake had always been sweet-natured growing up, but with another baby at home, his parents were worried that punishing him by taking away his TV privileges or Xbox time would only cause him to act out in more destructive ways (spoiler alert: they were right!).


Jake was becoming angry easily and throwing tantrums more and more often, and his parents really didn’t know what they could do to help. His energy levels seemed to fluctuate constantly, and they even noticed him being unkind to his best friend.


To help Jake’s parents, I suggested using language in a way that boosted his self-esteem, and to avoid putting him on the spot about his behavior at school. Because he did not have a history of repeated negative behaviors, I thought it would be useful for Jake to re-learn that his parents cared about him just as much as his sister, and to remind him that he was a competent older brother who could already feed himself, clean himself, and many other things she would eventually have to learn.


It was important that he didn’t see his sister as competition, but as one of his own. Jake’s parents needed to remind him how much he could do independently, and how well he could do it.


By helping Jake’s parents focus on changing behavior patterns at school instead of whether their “punishment” was appropriate, they were able to make huge inroads. His teachers remarked at the progress he was able to make in school with a boosted self-esteem. At recess one afternoon, they even overheard him say “I can’t wait till my sister is old enough so we can go to school together!”


If you or your loved ones need help coming up with a plan of action to set consequences for misbehavior, I am here to help! Please reach out to me at jlevine@teamesteem.net. I look forward to getting to know your story.