What To Do When Consequences Don’t Work

Rethinking Punishment: What To Do When Consequences Don’t Work

Enforcing accountability is a typical rigid parenting method used by millions worldwide. It usually involves rewarding children when they behave well and punishing them for bad behavior. Though theoretically, it may seem logical to teach children that actions have consequences, it is anything but fail-safe. We expect children to form a natural aversion to bad behavior by punishing them. However, as most parents know too well, children sometimes don’t respond as well to such punishments. They get stuck in negative behavior patterns like refusing to study after school or getting ready for classes on time. Punishments seem not to affect them.

When consequences don’t work, most parents believe that they haven’t found the right punishment yet or aren’t punishing enough. They overlook the need to rethink their strategies for child punishment. Therapists  /  Psychologists suggest that punishing children may be far less necessary than most people think.

Child Consequence


What to do when consequences don’t seem to work?

When consequences don’t work, it’s time to rethink child punishment. Here are some strategies that help you discipline your child without harsh penalties.

Let your child make the decision

It is vital to make your children collaboratively step into responsibility and let them feel that their opinions and decisions are essential. For example, if a child doesn’t change clothes before going to bed, you can ask this question: “You haven’t changed yet, and I want to make sure we have time for a bedtime story. What should we do?”

Children love to help and find solutions to challenges. They’ll change their clothes right away for a good bedtime story. All they need sometimes is a little respect.

Keep age-appropriate expectations

Every age-group has different needs and requires similar expectations. If you expect a one-year-old to stay away from the Television through consequences without baby-proofing the house, your expectation isn’t age-appropriate. Similarly, a five-year-old child needs your help to go through a daily routine instead of losing reading time with you if he gets distracted.

Know those very young children need help with setting routines that work for them without losing their privileges like playtime or movie time. If necessary, you can limit the on-screen or fun time to specific hours of the day or week as a lifestyle choice, but not as a punishment. Older children can learn to earn their privileges and self-monitor their routine. 

Choose the right words

Choosing the right words is of great significance while dealing with children. The approach you use shapes the relationship between you and your child. For example, consider the difference in the following methods:

“Go change your clothes and brush your teeth now.” No one likes being ordered. Being told what to do often invites resistance and stalling. Don’t ask yes or no questions either like “Can you change and brush your teeth?” unless you’re ready to accept denial for an answer. Try saying, “Do you want to change into your PJs now or after you brush your teeth?” This strategy is more effective. You give your child some control while retaining your decision-making responsibility as a parent. Select the right words and only provide the options that you’re okay with.

Also, you can use the “privilege” approach. Try saying, “You’ve finished your dinner like a good child. You may change your clothes now.” Doesn’t it sound like a privilege? Though it is still a command, it is calmer and a respectful one.

Understand why your child defies you

Knowing the root cause of defiance is essential. Before transitions and warnings, try to connect with your child. Think about the possible triggers that make your child behave a certain way. It is essential to sidestep power struggles so that your young one is more likely to cooperate when required. A rude or disobedient child is either very upset or is showing signs that your relationship needs work. After all, having a strong bond with your little one is extremely important. Harsh consequences and punishments worsen the scenario. You don’t have to put up with their rudeness. Just see it as a red flag for your relationship with your child and start rethinking your parenting strategies. A slight change may work wonders for both of you.

Natural consequences

Let your child learn through natural consequences. You don’t have to move the mountains to “protect” your children from the natural result of their decisions. If it does not involve too much damage, let them make their own choices because life itself is a great teacher. Moreover, make sure that your little one is convinced that the natural outcome is not a punishment by staying firmly on his side and guiding him.

Here are some examples of commonly used approaches in case a child forgets to take lunch to school: “Of course I’ll bring your lunch to the school. I don’t want you to stay hungry. Please, don’t forget tomorrow, sweetie.” There is no harm in using this approach once or twice as everyone makes mistakes, but repetitive behavior shows you need to help your child with self-organizing. “I’m not going to bring you your lunch! You keep forgetting things. This will teach you a lesson!” Though this approach may make a child remember his lunch the next time, he’ll think his parents don’t care about him.  

Now, consider this approach: “I’m sorry that you forgot your lunch today, but I can’t bring it to you at the moment. I hope you manage without it, and you can have a snack when you get home.” Using this method, the child learns to remember lunch, feels looked out for, and self-esteem stays put.

Child Consequence


MindShift Psychological Services

Rethinking child punishment and consequences and upgrading parenting techniques can be overwhelming. But, using a problem-solving approach instead of implications can be much more helpful. If, however, you need assistance, professional Therapists  /  Psychologists can help you and your child resolve issues and form a better bond. People residing in Riverside, CA, Los Angeles, CA, and Corona, CA, can get in touch with highly qualified professionals at MindShift Psychological Services. Detailed and in-depth sessions, including Individual TherapyFamily Therapy, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, may help. In the end, it’s your relationship with your child that matters the most.