Consequences should be designed to teach a positive lesson, not to punish. Parents need to think carefully about their tone of voice and demeanor, and remember to be respectful as they are role models. It’s easy for a frustrated parent to lose their cool and say something fast without really thinking about it. These quick reactions make consequences feel like punishment instead of a teachable moment working toward teaching children to become more independent and responsible.
Parenting expert Marie Marchand shares practical tips to the 5 R’s of consequences.
Consequences must be related to a specific negative behavior.
- If a child is refusing to wear a helmet to ride a bike, the child cannot ride it. The parent is there to insure the safety of the child. This consequence is directly related to the behavior.
- If a parent is telling a child that if they don’t wear their helmet, they won’t be able to play on their iPad, this is an unrelated punishment, and will build resentment.
The consequence must be reasonable in terms of time.
- If a child is refusing to wear their bike helmet, they should not lose the right to ride their bike for 2 weeks, that is unreasonable.
- Losing the privilege for the rest of the day is an appropriate amount of time. If parents give unreasonable consequences, this will also build resentment.
Consequences need to be respectful to maintain a positive relationship.
- If a child swears, washing his mouth with soap is not respectful.
- If a child does not want to tidy up their toys, they should not be put in the garbage. This teaches children to be disrespectful.
4-Revealed in advance
The consequence should be discussed in advance to make sure the child understands what will happen if they make choices. This helps develop independence, decision-making and living with the consequences of your choices.
- If a parent is anticipating that their child will oppose wearing a helmet, they can reveal the consequence in advance (no biking today) so that the child is empowered to make the right choice.
- If a child chooses to not come out of the bath, tell them in advance that there will not be enough time to have a story before bed.
Follow through with your stated consequences.
- Threatening to “never go to the park again” if a child doesn’t listen is unlikely to be a consequence parents will be able to stand by.
- “If you don’t come out of the bath, we won’t have time for a story tonight”. This is an easy consequence to realize for one night and one that the parent will likely be able to follow through on. This will teach the child about making the right choices.