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Issuing Consequences 101: Tips for Parents of Defiant Kids & Teens

A consequence is a result of something a child does. Letting kids experience the natural or logical consequences of their actions is one way to teach responsibility. A natural consequence means what happens because of something a youngster does. A logical consequence is a result arranged by the mother/father but logically related to what the youngster did. Natural and logical consequences result from choices kids make about their behavior. In effect, they choose the consequence they experience.

Sometimes the consequence which naturally or logically follows the youngster's behavior is unpleasant. By allowing kids to experience the pleasant or unpleasant consequence of their behavior, moms and dads and caregivers help kids learn what happens because of the behavior choices they made. Using consequences can be an effective discipline tool with kids three years old and older.

Natural Consequences: These are the inevitable result of a youngster's own actions. For example, despite Dad's urging him to put on his coat, Jake goes outside when it's cold without wearing a coat. The natural result is that Jake gets cold. This result is a consequence of a choice Jake made. Natural consequences are: (a) the responsibility of the youngster and (b) not administered by the mother/father.

Logical Consequences: Logical consequences happen as a result of a youngster's action, but are imposed by the mother/father. For example, 4-year-old Kylie rides her bike into the street after she was told not to. The logical consequence for Kylie's mother to impose on Kylie is to take her bike away for the rest of the morning. Logical consequences are most useful when a youngster's action could result in harm. It is important to make sure that logical consequences are reasonable and related to the problem, and to let both the youngster and the mother/father keep their self-respect.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

How to Use Logical and Natural Consequences—

1. Identify reasons: When your youngster misbehaves, find out what he/she is doing and try to figure out why. Kids usually misbehave for these reasons: (a) because they feel inadequate, (b) to get even, (c) to get power, and (d) to get your attention.

It's important to try to understand why the youngster is misbehaving so you can take the correct action.

Michael, age 5, was playing in the yard. It was almost time to go to preschool. Mom called to Michael that he had five minutes to finish playing. Michael kept on playing because he was having fun. “One minute left,” warned Mom. His toys were still all over the yard and it was time to go.

Paying no attention to his Mother is a great way for Michael to gain power and get attention.

2. Decide whose problem it is: Some problems are the youngster's alone. When this is the case, it's often best simply to let whatever will happen, happen. As long as the consequences are not dangerous, don't interfere. This is a natural consequence. For example, if Michael were playing out in the yard when it began to rain and he would not come in, he would get wet. The natural consequence would be the discomfort of being drenched. When Michael will not put his toys away, his mother has the problem. Mom really needs Michael to put his trucks away before going to preschool. They live in an apartment complex where there are many other kids and the toys might not be there when they return. Mom has been working to help Michael be more responsible for his toys. In this case it's time to use a logical consequence.

3. Offer choices: When you want your youngster to do something or behave in a certain way, the best way is to offer a few choices. Make sure any choice you offer is one you can live with and does not harm the youngster.

“Michael, I need you to pick up the toys right now. If you don't they will have to be put away until tomorrow. I know you will want to play truck when we come home. That won't be possible unless you put them back in the house now. It's your choice.”

It's important to keep in mind that a logical consequence comes from the youngster's decision.

4. Stand firm: If the youngster chooses a consequence, follow through and don't waver. This is very important when you begin using this technique. A youngster used to getting his/her way through misbehavior may try to do the same thing as Michael thing when choosing a logical consequence.

Michael looked at Mom and continued playing. Mom said “All right, I can see you have decided not to play with your truck this afternoon.” Mom then removed the truck and put it in an out-of-reach place that Michael could see. Michael began to cry and throw dirt. Mom remained calm (it was not easy to do) and simply reminded Michael that he had made a choice.

5. Talk to your youngster about choices in a positive way: A choice given as a way to get something is far more appealing to a youngster than a warning. The actual consequence is probably the same, but a power struggle is avoided because the mother/father is positive rather than threatening.

Michael's Mom might want to rephrase her words. She might have better luck if she said, “Michael, I want you to be able to play with your truck later. Let's bring it into the house right now so you can play with it when we come home from preschool. I know you really like this truck, but if we leave it out here, it might disappear like the blue one did.”

6. Let your youngster know when she or he has done something good: As soon as a youngster corrects his behavior, let him know you think it's great. All of us respond better to praise than to criticism. Sometimes it's the only way a youngster knows he has met your expectations.

Two days later Michael was playing truck again. Now, Mom needed to go to the store and asked Michael to put the truck in the house. He ignored her for a minute, but when Mom reminded him that he was responsible for making sure the truck didn't disappear (either because he left it in the yard or because Mom put it away for a brief period of time) he picked it up and walked toward the door. Mom said, “Wow, I really like the way you're taking care of your truck. I'm proud of you!”

7. If possible, let the youngster help decide the consequence: Because the problem is the youngster's and she is in charge of the choices she makes, it's a good idea to ask her what she thinks a good consequence might be. This makes it more likely that the youngster will do what you ask. And if she chooses not to do it, she was part of the team that decided what the consequence would be.

Michael and Mom were talking about what might happen if he didn't bring in the truck. Michael understood the reason for needing to keep track of his toys and said that it might be taken away by another youngster if it were left out. Mom talked about how it would be hard to buy Michael another truck right now because trucks cost a lot of money. Michael said that if the truck disappeared, he might be able to help buy a new one with some of the money he got for his birthday. They both agreed that the best solution was to bring the truck in whenever Michael wasn't playing with it.

Kids can often come up with better consequences than their moms and dads when given the chance.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Guidelines for Using Logical Consequences—

Logical consequences are arranged by an adult but must be experienced by the youngster as a direct result of his/her behavior. To be effective, the consequence needs to fit the behavior in a logical way so that the youngster associates the consequence with the behavior choice.

1. Logical consequences acknowledge mutual rights and mutual respect.

Mother (TV is blaring): “Kayla, I realize you and Dana are enjoying your program, but your dad and I are trying to talk. Please turn down the volume or go outside. You decide which you'd rather do.”

In contrast, discipline expresses the power of personal authority.

Mother: “Kayla, turn that TV off this instant! I'm trying to talk to your father.”

2. Logical consequences are related to the misbehavior.

Father: “Richard, I'm going to mow the lawn this morning, but I won't be able to mow until all your toys are picked up. Please pick them up. If you don't, I'll place them in a bag and put them out of reach in the garage.”

In contrast, discipline is rarely related to the logic of the misbehavior or situation.

Father (mad): “Richard, I've told you a dozen times to pick up your toys outside. I'm going to mow over them and you can just forget about going to the show this afternoon, too.”

3. Logical consequences are not judgmental.

Son: “Dad, remember when I borrowed your pen without asking?”
Dad: “Yes, I do.”
Son: “Well, I lost it. I've looked everywhere for it.”
Dad: “Well, son, how are you going to replace the pen?”

In this example, Dad handled the situation by focusing on the impersonal fact that a pen was lost and must be replaced. In contrast, discipline implies wrong-doing and personal deficiencies, rather than a mistake or inappropriate behavior.

Dad (very angry): “Son, you took my pen without permission! Don't you know enough to ask? That's outright stealing. And you lost it. You'll never use anything else of mine again!”

4. Logical consequences are related to current and future behavior.

The Johnson family recently got a dog. Little John agreed to feed it, but did not live up to his agreement. John is playing with the dog.

Father: “I'm sorry, John, but you're not ready for the responsibility of caring for a dog. You'll have to leave the dog alone for two days. Then you can take on your responsibility for feeding the dog again.”

In contrast, discipline relates to past behavior.

Father (angrily): “John, you forgot to feed the dog. You don't care one bit about that poor animal. It's just like you to forget. You can't ever play with the dog again.”

5. Logical consequences are done in a firm but kind manner with a pleasant, friendly voice.

James and Robert are kicking each other under the table.

Mother: “You boys may either settle down and eat your breakfast or leave the table until you're ready to join us!”

In contrast, discipline often is threatening and treats the offender with disrespect.

Mother (angrily): “You two knock it off right now or you'll go to school without any breakfast!”

6. Logical consequences give the youngster a choice.

Tina has just come home from school and wants to play outside.

Mother: “Tina, if you plan to play outside, you'll need to change into your play clothes.”

In contrast, discipline demands obedience.

Mother: “Tina, change your clothes right now!”

Sometimes there is a thin line between logical consequences and discipline. The tone of voice, friendly attitude, and willingness to accept the youngster's decision are essential characteristics of logical consequences. No matter how logical an action may seem to you, if your words are threatening, the message conveyed to the youngster will be one of discipline. Then, your youngster will be resentful and angry at you for imposing the consequence, instead of taking responsibility for his/her actions and learning from the consequence.

Advantages of Using Natural and Logical Consequences—
  • Because it separates the deed from the doer, it does not shame or punish the youngster.
  • It is concerned with present and future behavior and helps kids learn to be responsible for their own actions.
  • It is done in a calm environment.
  • It lets kids make a choice.
  • The consequence is closely tied to the behavior, and gives the youngster a chance to learn what happens when he doesn't behave in the way you expect him to behave.

Disadvantages of Using Natural and Logical Consequences—

It can sometimes be difficult for moms and dads to use natural and logical consequences because the mother/father must be able to think ahead and come up with a proper response.
  • The youngster must be allowed to experience the consequence.
  • The consequence takes time to put into action and often does not work the first time.
  • The mother/father must not step in and “save” the youngster.

==> Help for Parents with Out-of-Control Teens

Dealing With Your Child's "Silent Treatment"

A youngster or teenager who uses the silent treatment does so as a way to shut parents out – and push their emotional buttons. The silent treatment also gives the youngster a feeling of power and control over the parents. And the more parents make an issue of this form of emotional abuse, the more the youngster uses this strategy.

Often times, the silent treatment is the only problem-solving technique your child has at that moment (i.e., he or she is trying to deal with a particular problem by using a passive-aggressive approach). By avoiding eye contact and discussion, your child has found a way of getting the upper hand.

So what can parents do? Here are 10 tips for dealing with your child's silent treatment:

1. Don’t fall into the “reaction trap.” Many parents take the silent treatment personally; they feel powerless as a parent and react with anger and threats. This is exactly what your child wants. When you get mad and lose it, your child wins – and he/she knows it. Also he/she will kick-up the silent treatment to a whole new level now that it has been reinforced by your over-reaction.

2. Let your child know that the silent treatment is ineffective. First, parents can respond with, “Ignoring me doesn’t solve the problem. You are not to leave the house or engage in any recreational activities until we discuss this matter. Take all the time you need. If you want to talk about it, let me know.” This statement sends a very clear message to your child that (a) his/her silence doesn’t give him/her more power or control and (b) there is a consequence for avoiding addressing the problem. Second, parents should leave the ball in the child’s court at this point. Let the deafening silence run its course – and it will die by default. Your child will eventually realize that this tactic did not help achieve the desired objective.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

3. Don’t stoop to your child’s level. In other words, don’t try to be smart and use some reverse psychology by giving him/her the silent treatment in return. It won’t work! Besides, that’s what your child wants – for you to SHUT UP! So, use the strategy outlined in point #2 above, then – and only then – can you let silence reign. You have the upper hand now, because the more your child refuses to talk, the longer he’s grounded.

4. Make the first move. After you have completed steps 1 and 2 above, and at least an hour has elapsed, you can (in one very short sentence) state in a calm voice, “Do you want to talk about it yet?” If you just get more silence, simply go on about your business and try again in another hour. If he/she says something – anything – then try to keep the conversation going.

5. Give your youngster some space to sort out his/her feelings. Don’t try to force him/her to talk, and don’t cajole, threaten or give into his/her demands. Instead, a brief separation may give him/her time to think through the situation. The silent treatment can last a long time in teens, so be patient with the process.

6. Maintain your routine. Proceed with family life and family activities throughout your youngster's silent treatment. That way, he/she doesn’t hold the family hostage with his/her emotional blackmail and manipulative behaviors. If you have regular, fun family outings planned, your youngster may be motivated to begin speaking to fully enjoy the activity.

7. Remember who has legitimate authority. The silent treatment is a power-play, and as the mother or father – you have all the power. So never take the silent treatment personally. Instead, view it as a learning opportunity for your youngster. Remember, you are getting the silent treatment because your youngster has not yet learned more appropriate ways of solving his/her problems. You can help him/her learn better problem solving methods.

8. Reward positive behavior. If your child’s tactic is unsuccessful in manipulating you, he/she will eventually open up. When that happens, express your empathy (e.g., “I’m sorry we both had to go through this”) and praise him/her for opening up (e.g., “I know you were angry, but the fact that you are speaking to me now tells me that you can be respectful”).

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

9. Begin the process of trouble-shooting using the following guidelines:
  • First: The two of you will only discuss the problem(s) as long as you are both sitting down. If either of you stands up, there is a break so you can both cool down.
  • Second: The parent delivers an assertive message to get the discussion started: When you… (state what the child did), I felt… (an emotion – not a thought ). I’d rather you… (child’s new behavior that replaces old behavior).
  • Third: Ask your child to repeat back what he/she just heard you say.
  • Fourth: If your child does not paraphrase correctly, return to the third step.
  • Fifth: If your child paraphrases correctly, ask open-ended questions and make comments such as: How long will this (problem) last? It must be difficult being you. It must be hard for you to imagine your life being any different. What are you feeling right now? What do you think about what I just said? You look ticked-off, who has been hassling you? How can I help you? What can we do so this problem doesn't happen again?

10. Consider drafting a house-rules contract that stipulates what course of action to take in the case your child uses the silent treatment in the future. For example, “When child refuses to discuss a particular issue, child will be allowed a one hour cooling-off period. After one hour, child will either engage in problem-solving with parent or receive an appropriate consequence.”

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Resolving Parent-Child Conflict by Creating Win-Win Outcomes

Some moms and dads are lucky and have a youngster that is easy to discipline or that simply wants to please his parents. Then, there are moms and dads who have a youngster that never listens, does not like to please anyone except himself, and simply is out-of-control. These kids repeatedly test their parents and make the entire family crazy at times. But here's the good news: with a few simple techniques, parents can get even the most uncooperative child to "walk the line."

It’s hard to understand why your youngster refuses to listen to you. Also, it is difficult not to take it personally when she repeatedly does the things you ask her not to do. However, it is important to realize your youngster is not intentionally trying to make you feel like a bad parent. Instead, she is trying to find out what works for her. If she does not do what you ask her to do and you let her get away with it, then it is worth her disobeying to get what she wants. In fact, if you let her get away with it even half of the time - or just sometimes - this is enough for your youngster to challenge your authority and disobey you.

15 tips for parents on how to turn parent-child conflict into a win-win situation:

1. At the end of the day, remind your youngster that he is special and loved. Help him look for something good about the day that is finished and the day that lies ahead.

2. Brag about your child to others when your child is within earshot. For example, tell your wife, ‘”You should have seen Jeremy at the barbershop. He sat up so tall and answered all the barber’s questions.”

3. Give your youngster something to do that he can’t do while misbehaving. For example, “Help me pick out six apples” instead of running around the grocery store. It is a good idea to offer two positive alternatives that are incompatible with the inappropriate behavior: “Would you like to choose the oranges or select the cereal?”

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

4. Give your youngster two choices, both of which are positive and acceptable to you. When a youngster does something you don’t want him to do or doesn’t want to do what you have requested, give him a choice. For example, if your youngster balks about getting out of bed and ready for school, you say, “You may either get up or you go to bed an hour early tonight.” Then, “You choose, or I’ll choose” is the next choice if he is still reluctant. Usually, he’ll choose, but if not, follow through with the consequence that evening.

5. Instead of yelling, screaming or talking in a loud voice, surprise your youngster by lowering your voice to a whisper. This often evokes immediate attention and helps you stay in control and think more clearly. It’s our reactions to kid’s actions that teach them whether or not to repeat them. They’ll get your attention whichever way they can get it. Kids repeat the behavior that works.

6. Keep it simple. A parent should check frequently to make sure that the child is not overloaded with directions, expectations, and picky regulations. Not only does it make any child non-compliant, but also when surrounded by so many directions, a child will often forget what is expected.

7. Keep your eyes and mind on what is happening. Don’t wait until your youngster is out-of-control to step in. Remove him from the situation if necessary. Stay calm and emotionally detached. Let him know what his options are. Be firm but not mean.

8. Make a big deal over responsible, considerate, appropriate behavior with attention, thanks, praise, thumbs-up, recognition, hugs and special privileges. Kids want your eyeballs more than anything else, so you have to train yourself to look for the good behavior and look away when it is inappropriate (as long as it is not dangerous or destructive). If it is dangerous or destructive, you have to stop it in the least reinforcing way possible – quickly before it escalates.

9. Never embarrass your youngster in front of others. Always move to a private place to talk when there is a problem.

10. Set the rules together. This does not signify that a parent needs to comply with the wishes and demands of their children. Kids need an opportunity to tell their parents what they think and feel about the rules and regulations they are inclined to set. When this happens, kids are more likely to comply with the rules. When a child is asked what she feels about the rules or limits, the child usually feels that she has some sense of control of what is going on. When the child feels that she has some sense of control in a situation, the child is more willing to cooperate and comply. A good time to bring up the discussion of setting the home rules and setting the consequences would be during a family meeting where every member of the family is present.

11. Sometimes, simply use actions instead of words. Don’t say anything. When your youngster continues to get out of bed and comes to the living room, take him back to bed – as many times as it takes. Don’t get upset, talk, scold, threaten or give reasons. Stay calm. Your youngster will learn that nighttime is for sleeping and that you are serious about enforcing bedtime.

12. Tell your youngster to “take a break” and think about what he could do differently that would work better or be more constructive. Tell him that he can come back as soon as he is ready to try again. Put the ball in his court – and make him responsible for changing his behavior.

13. Children have learned that they don't have to cooperate right away. Most parents start off asking their children to do something nicely, and if they don't listen, parents ask a second time using a louder and firmer tone of voice, and then they escalate to threats, "If you don't start doing your homework right now, then you’re grounded tomorrow!" When begging, pleading and bribery fails, parents do what anyone in a state of desperation would do—they explode. They yell, rant and rave and dole-out consequences that are impossible to impose (e.g., "You’re grounded until you bring all your grades up to ‘C’ or above”). Children like to feel powerful, and seeing mom or dad pitch a fit is worth the consequences. Think in terms of teaching your children to listen instead of disciplining them for ignoring you. Teach children to listen using the A, B, C and D's:

A. Ask in a serious tone of voice
B. Be clear and specific
C. Communicate your request in 10 words or less
D. Don't make “not listening” an option

 ==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

For example, if you ask your child to get ready for bed and he tunes you out, say, "Bedtime. Please, turn the television off." Don't walk away and hope he will do as he is told. Stay with him until it's done. Turn off the television yourself if needed, and just thank him for listening (reverse psychology here). Don't yell or threaten the child. Be creative. Getting ready for bed can be turned into a game, or you can give your child motivation to cooperate by saying, "Go get ready for bed and choose the book you want me to read." Be realistic. It will take time for your son or daughter to become better listeners, and it may very well take you time to learn to stay calm. In the meantime, be on the lookout for small improvements and make sure you praise your youngster for listening-up.
14. The best way to get our children to behave accordingly is to demonstrate the desired behavior ourselves. The three areas where role modeling is particularly helpful are as follows:
  • BEING ACCOUNTABLE— How a child deals with accountability has a lot to do with how the parent deals with his own mistakes. The permissive parent will tend to hold themselves responsible and accountable for the mistakes of others. Autocratic parents will tend to point the finger, blame, and accuse others for their own mistakes. The democratic parent will tend to acknowledge that he or she made a mistake and finds a way to fix the error.
  • BEING SOCIAL— As a parent, do we treat our children with courteous, dignity and respect, or do we treat them as if they were commodities? The way we talk and treat kids will determine the way they will respond and treat us. Do we dictate and command or request and ask that our children do what needs to be done? When a parent respects the rights, needs and wants for the child, the child will respect the rights, needs and wants of the parent. That is the way it works.
  • BEING TIDY— We all want our children to be tidy and do their chores. Before we are able to demand tidiness from our kids, let us examine our own room. Do we demand that our children do their chores while there is laundry that requires to be done, dishes piled up in the sink, and clothes scattered everywhere in our own bedrooms?

15. Get the child's attention. Parents can reduce confusion and non-compliance by making sure that children are paying attention before giving instructions. To endure a child's attention, follow these steps:
  • Precede every request by speaking the child's name.
  • Get down to the child's level. The child will not feel inferior, but rather will feel as an equal because you have physically placed yourself at his or her physical level.
  • Look into the child's eyes and speak directly to the child. The child will find it difficult to look elsewhere when someone has established eye contact.
  • In some cases, it may be necessary to check the child's understanding by getting verification. A parent can ask, "Can you repeat to me what you need to do?"


==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

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