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Kids and Consequences

Discipline and correction remains the constant challenge of parenting from crib to college. Every parent knows the struggle of wondering if they have been too hard or too lenient on their kids.The reality is, kids need discipline and correction. They need to understand the consequences of their actions. In fact, without an appropriate understanding of consequences, you will set up your kid for disaster in life.

Remember, your goal as a parent is not to become the police, always poised to find a criminal. You should be enjoying every stage with your child. You should NOT see your role as a parent defined by "fighting crime." Instead, view parenting as "training your child in the way he or she should go" (Proverbs 22:6).

This is where parenting is more of an art than a science. Here are a few tips to help you create effective consequences for your kids.

1. One size does not fit all. Your child is a unique individual, made by God and is different from everyone else. It is vital that you know your child. You must pay close attention to the uniqueness of each of your children. As your child grows, you will need to have a "sixth sense" about the kinds of expectations you can reasonably place on your child, given their personality and the corresponding consequences that aid the training process. The challenge many parents face is realizing that what may have worked with their first child does not necessarily work with their second. Remember, you are training a unique person to live out his or her potential. One size does not fit all.

2. Beware of responding unrealistically. I see myself make this mistake more than I care to admit! I can be very unrealistic when it comes to consequences. I tend to be unrealistic to the soft side. This means I under-respond in the moment, and this sends a message to my kids that their offense was really "no big deal." Other parents are the opposite; you may over-respond in the moment, sending a message that the offense is far greater than it really is. The reason we often favor one side or the other is due to our emotions in the moment. This is understandable, and no parent is without emotions. However, our goal is to help our kids associate appropriate value to their behavior - when we over or under-respond, we send mixed signals. If your five year old spills milk, she should not be banned from your presence for a week...life just doesn't work this way. Likewise, if your 14 year old cusses you out to your face, you shouldn't shrug it off, life doesn't work that way either. The goal is realistic response and realistic consequences to the actions and attitudes of our kids.

3. Finding the realistic response. As you train your child to become a well-adjusted, responsible adult, you must train for reality. They will step out of your home into reality whether you like it or not. So, become friends with reality. Your goal in parenting is to deliver reality in a safe and forgiving environment so your kids can learn it well and be fit to enter an unsafe and unforgiving reality. Let's say your 10 year old son decides to jump off the house onto the trampoline, into the swimming pool and breaks his leg in the process (yes, I did this - but didn't break my leg), you do not need to add any additional consequence or punishment. Reality was both the teacher and the giver of punishment or consequence through the broken leg. However, if you discover your eight year old daughter has successfully stolen her favorite toy from the store (yes, I did this too), she will need you to ensure that a realistic consequence or punishment follows her actions. It is then that you must decide what the most appropriate and realistic action is. In my case, my dad made me return the items to the store manager in person. To this day I will not steal paper clips from our office!

4. Build in high personal value. One of the reasons kids don't take consequences seriously is because they do not understand their own personal value. This is critical in the development of children. You must help them understand their personal value. This is more than building their self-esteem; this is helping them recognize their worth as a human being, made in the image of God. Safety messages like, "buckle up," "Just Say No" and "practice safe sex" are only as strong as the individual child's understanding of personal worth. This means your child needs to know they are loved (which they probably do), and they also need a few other assurances. They need to know their life was meant to count in a bigger story. Does your child participate in helping others outside of his or herself? Give them a vision! Take teenagers on a mission trip and watch their personal worth grow as they realize that they can impact the world around them. Kids often find trouble because they lack a better option. Give them mission!

5. Embrace inconvenience. Training children is far more complex and more demanding than controlling or demoralizing them. Every parent knows the feeling of just wanting some peace, even if that means over-reacting, under-reacting, or being just plain ambivalent. Parenting is terribly inconvenient. Our kids need us to take the extra time to explain things, to give correction and to sit back and watch them try it on their own, even if they fail. Often times, the consequences that are best are the ones that cost you too. Embrace it. You are the parent - no one will ever have the kind of influence and opportunity you have with your children.

I hope this stuff makes sense and gives you some tools to help you make the most of your 7000Days!

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Posted by Andy Savage at 7:00 AM
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