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 chosen.
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.
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." Email firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit www.attachmentparenting.ca
for ordering information.