My son's school counselor has suggested that we praise
him for good behavior and give him consequences when
he breaks rules. I've heard this plenty of times, but how
do I know what kind of consequences is best and when
to give it?
Every parent struggles with these questions at some
time or another. With an endless list of positive and
negative consequences to choose from, it's
understandable that some parents feel overwhelmed
when faced with finding solutions for changing their
First, know your child's personality and age. Not every
consequence works for every child at every age. I f you
are still parenting your 15 year-old like a 5 year-old, you
may become very frustrated. Preschool children respond
best to immediate consequences such as time-out while
older school-age children and teenagers respond well to
consequence delays such as removing privileges.
Strong-willed kids or children with behavior disorders
tend to need more frequent, consistent consequences
than easy-going, compliant children. In addition, know
your child well enough to determine what is going to be
positive and negative for him or her. One child's
restriction from Nintendo is another child's removal of
Second, know how to use the consequences correctly.
Many times parents administer consequences
incorrectly. Spanking, time-out, and behavior charts can
all be misused and result in little or no change in a
child's behavior. Be prepared to find out HOW to give
the consequence which will involve practice and
patience as you strengthen your skill and knowledge.
Children learn best through repetition and experience
but this is true for us parents as well.
Third, know that it takes time. Have you ever heard a
parent say, "oh, that doesn't work with my child" after
using a positive or negative consequence for only a few
days? Believe it or not, most kids are not convinced
enough to change a behavior until they receive a
consequence consistently or MOST OF THE TIME. Many
parents want to see a change in behavior immediately.
A more reasonable way of thinking is to ask yourself,
"Am I seeing less (or more) of this behavior than I was
2 weeks ago? 1 month ago?" In changing child
behavior, consistency will usually yield results if the
consequence is used correctly.
Finally, accept that changing child behavior is a
commitment that takes time, effort, and information.
Answered by: Dr. Susan Bryant, Ph.D.