Consequences not working?

Are you pulling your hair out wondering why your consequences aren’t working? You are not alone. This is the most popular complaint I hear in my therapy practice. “We’ve tried everything.” I am told. “Nothing works.”

Consequences not working? Don't pull your hair out. Ask yourself these six questions and fix the problem.

Usually, as we dig further, this just isn’t the case. Delivering effective consequences can be a major challenge. Kids are tuned into every crack and inconsistency. They will quickly capitalize on those weaknesses and unravel any discipline strategy.

So why are your consequences not working? Ask yourself these six questions.

Is your child old enough to understand your consequences?

Let’s ask the most obvious question first. Are you trying to consequence a toddler with school-aged discipline? Toddlers have no memory or attention span. Ask them what they did this morning and you’ll see what I am talking about.

You have about a 2-minute window to help your toddler connect what they did, to the consequence it caused. After 2 minutes you might as well be talking Greek. Keep toddler consequences very short and to the point.

Also, don’t expect any consequences to work on toddlers. Sorry. Don’t kill the messenger. All your great parenting will pay off – just not for another few years. But, don’t stop doing what you are doing. You are doing crucial work right now. Don’t believe me? Read this article.

Do you always follow through with consequences?

Okay, this one is pretty much a no-brainer. If you don’t always follow through with your consequences…wait for it….they aren’t going to work. Ever. Kids don’t care that you are tired, can’t take their crying anymore, feel sick, don’t feel up to the battle or had a bad day at work. All they know is that you said one thing and did another.

Do you have the right currency for your child?

Every child has something that motivates them. If you are threatening to take away something and your child can care less – you are missing the mark.

Can your kids “earn” their way out of consequences?

So on the surface, this sounds like a good plan. Teach them how to correct their wrong. Unfortunately, kids tell me that they don’t care what their parents threaten because they know they can just earn back whatever privilege or consequence they took away.

Does your partner undo all the consequences?

I don’t want to give you ammunition for a lovers quarrel, but if your partner is undoing all of your awesome parenting, your consequences aren’t going to work.

Does your child struggle with issues like self-regulation and impulsivity?

This last one is a bit of a downer, but an important one to cover. Some kids don’t have the ability to behave the way you want them to behave. They may have some issues with self-regulation or impulse control. These kids need to learn skills and consequences aren’t going to cut it.

Hang in there!

Finding effective consequences can sometimes feel a bit like trying to find the Holy Grail. But, hang in there because the effort is worth the payoff in the end.

What are the most effective consequences in your home? Leave a comment and give other parents some ideas.

Do you know other parents who struggle with consequences? Share this article with them!


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