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April 1, 2015
The Solution Isn’t Just Bigger Consequences
Some problems that children face are more difficult than others. Annoying behavior, irresponsibility, habitual teasing, and forgetfulness are just a few examples. Out of frustration, some parents think that the child needs bigger and bigger consequences. They believe that the bigger the consequence, the faster the change.
Remember that the goal is a changed heart, not just punishment for doing wrong. A bigger consequence may be needed to get the child’s attention but the real work takes place by helping the child begin to think differently and develop new patterns of behavior. Often many small corrections are more effective than one big one.
Mature people will feel an internal pain when they discover that they’ve made a mistake or done the wrong thing. This is normal and healthy. Your child may not experience that same inner sense yet. Consequences create a kind of pain for children. This pain can motivate right behavior and get them moving in a helpful direction.
One example of this is the parent who decided to take away the privilege of riding a bike from her nine-year-old son. She said, “Son, I’m not taking the bike away for a set number of days. I’m taking the bike away until I see some progress in the way you’re treating me when I call you in for dinner. We’ll see how you do for the next few days and when I get a good response then we can talk about you having your bike again.”
Mom turned the discipline around so that the child had to earn back the privilege. She wanted to see several positive change points before she allowed her son to ride his bike again. Using consequences in this way allows the parent to give and take away privileges without removing hope or the motivation to change. Often repeating smaller consequences is more effective than one big consequence.
Consequences may get your child’s attention, and may even motivate change, but the real work is done by practicing right thinking and developing new patterns of reacting. Talking about character qualities and planning new responses helps to change habits. Over time maturity will take hold.
For more ideas about correcting with more than just consequences, consider the book The Christian Parenting Handbook, 50 Heart-Based Strategies for All the Stages
of Your Child’s Life by Dr Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN.. You’ll appreciate the wisdom condensed into 50 short chapters, each one biblical, practical, and relevant for parents of children ages 2-18.