Consequences Don’t Work
son rides his bike without a helmet. Again. You’ve
nagged, begged, pleaded, and informed him of the dangers
of riding without one. Next, you’ve issued Consequences!
You’ve taken the bike away and put it in the
garage for a day, then a week and then, a whole month.
You’ve done everything the parenting books say
for a consequence to work. It’s reasonable.
Anyone can live a day without a bike. It’s respectful.
You’re not hitting or calling him names. And
it’s related. No helmet, no bike. It’s
simple to understand. But the problem is that he is
still riding a bike without a helmet! And the situation
could turn into a huge power struggle every time you
take the bike away.
the Consequence has not worked. Why not? Often, consequences
are disguised as punishments. They do not help in
making amends, cleaning up, fixing things, nor do
they solve problems. Children really need to see the
purpose in logical consequences and very often, there
is no real purpose, other then to inflict pain and
inconvenience for the child until they change their
behaviour. However, children will not change their
behaviour until the underlying feeling or need has
been addressed and a solution found.
this instance, the consequence was issued as more
of a punishment then a solution. Taking the bike away
does nothing to solve the problem of why the helmet
is unacceptable to the child. How to tell the difference
between consequences as a solution and consequences
as a punishment? If you are threatening a consequence,
it’s probably more of a punishment, and not
a workable solution, and even with the three R’s,
(respectful, related, reasonable) it won’t work
to bring about a positive change of behaviour.
to do? Sit down with your son and probe why he doesn’t
like the bike helmet. Perhaps it’s in an inconvenient
place to access. He needs a solution to make it handier
to use. Perhaps he just never can remember. He needs
solutions to help him remember. Perhaps a visual picture
on the door might work. Perhaps the helmet doesn’t
fit right or looks goofy. He needs to obtain a different
helmet. This isn’t all on the parent’s
shoulder to fix. Involving the child in finding a
solution is essential in developing their problem
solving skills, creativity, and teamwork, as well
as making it more likely they will accept the solution
make sure that the consequences are solution focused
rather than pain focused. A common concern is, “Won’t
my child ever learn the consequences of his actions
if I don’t set up logical consequences?”
Of course he will. The rest of the world will be happy
to teach your child the logical consequences of his
actions and sometimes it will be painful and inconvenient
for him, but only you, the parent, can provide the
safe haven of your loving relationship to teach him
how to solve problems, make restitution and make amends.
That’s the harder job. But the bonus is that
you’ll enjoy less power struggles and more connection,
teaching, and learning, in your relationship.
Judy Arnall is a 10 year veteran Parent Educator,
award winning speaker, and mother of five children.
She is author of “Discipline Without Distress:
135 Tools For Raising Caring, Responsible Children
Without Time-out, Spanking, Punishment or Bribes.”
or visit www.attachmentparenting.ca
for ordering information.