This seems like an easy concept to understand and implement – for us and for our children – but so much of how we handle consequences, or punishment, has to do with, often, a reaction against how our own parents handled these moments with us. Were they overly punitive? Did the punishment always fit the crime? Did they ignore us? We all try so hard not to make the same mistakes our parents made, or those we perceive they made. For some, this is deep and murky water. If it becomes very confusing, it’s probably a great time to consult a professional. Often when we get clearer about our own underlying motivations, it translates into more effective and satisfying parenting.
That said, consequences can be a powerful tool. Giving children clear directions helps everyone focus on what needs to get done and when. For example, it’s time for your children to brush their teeth as part of the bedtime routine. Your older child gets to go first (not always a hard and fast rule). Your younger child runs in and starts pushing the older one off the stool that’s next to the sink. They start fighting. It gets everybody upset. An easy solution is to take, in this case, the younger child out of the bathroom – he will probably be upset at first – and allow the older child to finish. Don’t let her take so much time that it becomes a tease! This will generally work well. Again, fairness reins supreme. In this case, the consequence becomes a crazy moment that was entirely preventable.