Losing privileges is one of the few behavior shapers you never run out of. Children will always want something from you. For this behavior modification technique to have a good chance of preventing recurrence of misbehavior, the youngster must naturally connect the withdrawal of privileges to the behavior.
Here are some good examples:
- “If you choose to ride your bike over to your friend’s house without asking permission, you also choose to lose your bike for 2 days.”
- “Since you dawdled and missed the morning carpool, you can walk to school.”
- “You get caught driving drunk and you lose your license.”
Here are some bad examples:
- “Since you decided to come home late for supper, you cannot watch any TV tonight.” (What does withholding television have to do with being home in time for supper? ...the child wonders.)
- “If you keep picking on your sister, you will not go over to your friend’s house to play basketball later.” (Not much of a connection here either.)
- "If you refuse to do your homework, you will get out there and pick up sticks in the yard."
Withholding privileges can work if it is part of a “pre-agreed upon” behavior management strategy decided on during a family meeting. Moms and dads state the behaviors they expect from their children and announce that part of the fun of being a parent is granting privileges to the children so they can have some fun too. But if the children don't hold up their end of the bargain, the parents cannot grant those privileges. So, being home in time for supper gets you the privilege of a half-hour of video games rather than the ‘video game time’ being an inalienable right of every citizen in the household.
Losing privileges is an effective form of discipline used to show kids that all privileges come with responsibilities and must be earned; therefore, when your youngster misbehaves, you can use the withholding method by temporarily removing an object or activity (e.g., video game, playing with friends). Before taking away the valued object or activity, explain to your youngster what you are doing and the reason for your action.
The amount of time the object or activity should be withheld solely depends on the level of misbehavior. Parents will want to “make the punishment fit the crime.” For example, if your child violates curfew by 30 minutes, “one-day grounding” would make sense because (a) there is an easily understood connection between “not coming home” (violation) and “being grounded at home” (consequence), and (b) being grounded one day for every 30 minutes the child is late seems reasonable by most standards.
Here are a few additional things to keep in mind when you use this withholding technique:
o Be aware of what your youngster can and cannot do. Kids develop at different rates. They have different strengths and weaknesses. When your youngster misbehaves, it may be that he simply cannot do what you are asking or he does not understand what you are asking.
o Be sure you can follow through on your promise.
o Choose something that your youngster values that is related to the misbehavior.
o For kids younger than 6 or 7 years, withholding privileges works best if done right away. For example, if your 5-year-old misbehaves in the morning, do not tell him he can't watch TV that evening. There is too much time in between, and he probably will not connect the behavior with the consequence.
o Learn from mistakes—including your own. If you do not handle a situation well the first time, do not worry about it. Think about what you could have done differently, and try to do it the next time. If you feel you have made a real mistake in the heat of the moment, wait to cool down, apologize to your youngster, and explain how you will handle the situation in the future. Be sure to keep your promise. This gives your him/her a good model of how to recover from mistakes.
o Never take away something your youngster truly needs (e.g., a meal).
o Once you make a rule or promise, stick to it.
o Work toward consistency. Try to make sure that your rules stay the same from day to day. Kids find frequent changes confusing and may push the limits just to find out what the limits are.
My Out-Of-Control Teen: Help for Parents of Defiant Teens