Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Why Consequences Often Don't Work

Last month Noel Janis-Norton, creator of Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting, wrote a helpful article about what to do "When Consequences Don't Seem to Work".

As I read the article, it reminded me of a story a parent told Noel and me about a consequence that backfired when her feisty daughter, Susanna, was five. It was Hanukkah. On each night of this holiday, Susannah would receive a gift. On day four, when the mom picked Susanna up from school, Susanna had a tantrum, screaming that she wanted a playdate that afternoon. Her mom explained that it wasn't possible, and Susanna got more and more angry, kicking the back of her mother's seat in the car. The mom finally lost her cool and told Susanna that she would not get her Hanukkah present that night. She followed through and didn't give her the present, and Susanna was furious. The mom thought Susanna would be motivated to behave better so she could get her present the next day, but Susanna only became angrier and misbehaved even more.

This is a pretty common scenario in families. When we get upset enough, we look for some privilege we can claw back from our kids - often it's TV or computer time. In this story, the problem was that Susanna hadn't been told that her Hanukkah gifts were in any way linked to her behavior. The gifts hadn't been set up as something she had to earn, so she believed she had a right to the gifts. So really, she was right to be furious. When we take away things that our kids didn't know could be taken away, it makes them very resentful. The good news is that when we shift our focus to having our kids earn privileges for positive behavior vs. taking them away for poor behavior, they are far more motivated to behave well.

Laura Runnels Fleming (see profile below)

Pasadena, CA

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