Q&A: Consequences for Older Kids?
Q: Any advice on consequences for the older kids? I’m having trouble coming up with ones that actually work. For example, when a task is asked of them and they stall/dawdle? Or schoolwork isn’t completed thoroughly? Taking away privileges doesn’t seem to work, adding more work doesn’t either.
A: I like ideas that drive home the “cost” of their choices.
With older children– say 9/10, and up– I do like the “Love & Logic” approach, as I understand it, which is to take the action/choice they’re making, and find the closest, most natural consequence that can be there… OR to create a natural-ish consequence that is similar to what similar choices in adulthood would yield.
For us, for example, one of our older sons recently lost out on earning extra income from side-jobs (for neighbors/outdoor work/etc) because he was neglecting chores inside the home. Neglecting the minimum in his assigned work caused him to lose the privilege of taking on additional work for income. This consequence has been painful for him, and is yielding greater diligence in his work, and may — after these many months have passed– lead to him earning back the right of agreeing to take other jobs, once he’s doing them all with diligence.
FIGURING OUT: WHAT IS APPROPRIATE DISCIPLINE?
For me, the wisdom of Hebrews 12:11 has been a critical piece of discerning how to find appropriate methods of discipline:
“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
So we believe that appropriate, effective discipline needs those pieces:
- NOT pleasant
- good “training” grounds
- leads to peace & righteousness
So, often, with older kids here, that looks like getting extra work assigned to you, and losing out on things you want to do.
LET THEM FEEL THE PAIN OF IT
This often requires that- as parents- we are willing to *let* them feel the pain of the consequences, which might mean that we also miss out on something, or that we watch their extreme disappointment when they miss out on something they were looking forward to. This is not an easy thing to actually LET happen. We might want to talk ourselves out of it. We might think:
- “surely he doesn’t have to miss out on a friend’s birthday party! This only comes once a year!”
- “but she’s worked so hard and now she’ll miss out on the recital?/big game?/event?”
- “all the other kids are going to do this and I don’t want to have to stay home with the errant child. We’ll just bring him along this once.”
The problem with thinking like this is that by removing truly painful consequences from their lives, we are teaching them that real, serious, painful consequences won’t actually come to them– that if they are clever, or pathetic, that they can get out of anything that truly stings. So I’ve had to watch out for this attitude in myself. It helps to talk things through with my husband and ask,
- “What will this consequence teach him?”
- “What are the likely long-term lessons to be learned from this consequence?”
- “What will he learn if there is no consequence?”
WORK AS TRAINING GROUND
Obviously there is also teaching/instruction/training, but (especially with boys), we have found that work itself becomes a fertile training ground for lessons. It also — it seems — helps use up some of that testosterone that’s beginning to make its way through their bodies, and helps them to use up their energy and strength on tasks that are productive and beneficial for themselves and others.
So the questions I ask myself, especially in regard to a particular child, is:
- What would serve as a “painful” discipline in their life?
- What would work hand-in-hand with my aims for them in training them in the areas where they are deficient (i.e., laziness… extra work and opportunities to learn diligence)?
Each child is a little different… so for introverts and extroverts, the consequences may radically differ. For a child who wants to be social and make plans/go places, that can be a training ground (i.e., “because you spoke that way to me earlier, you’ve lost the opportunity to visit with your friends after church tonight. You need to stay at my side.”)… but that same thing would be ineffective for the wallflower. For the child who *lives* for the solitude of building legos, being rude to others may mean losing out on that and I might require that they be up, helping out with kitchen duties all afternoon rather than getting that respite of time alone. (i.e., “because you chose to be rude to others, you lost the opportunity to dash off and revel in time alone. I’d like for you to help out in the kitchen and look for opportunities to bless your siblings as we get ready for dinner tonight.”)
NOT JUST DISCIPLINE– DISCIPLINE & INSTRUCTION
I also am very explicit about instructing them in how to go about changing their thinking as they do the physical task. “While you’re setting the table, I’d like for you to consider how you could have talked differently to him. Come back once you’ve done that and list out 3 ways you could have handled that situation differently.” (Or that sort of thing.)
In the same way that I directed their physical choices when they were little (“no slumping and stomping. Chin up and look mommy in the eye.”), NOW I try to help direct/guide their emotional inside things that are happening… helping them to think through their actions differently… choices, attitudes, words. So I try to do that as a mental/emotional focus point, WHILE giving them something physical/specific as a consequence.
This is, essentially, giving your child biblical counseling, AND teaching your child how to counsel their own hearts as they face trials in life.
Does that help at all? It’s going to differ so wildly with various children, but for me, I look for —
- what is painful? and —
- what provides fertile training ground for the character issue/struggle that particular child is facing (given their action/reason for needing correction).
Does that help at all to get your mental juices going about the things you’re dealing with?
IN THE COMMENTS, PLEASE SHARE: What have been effective and fruitful consequences in YOUR home, with your older (say, 9/10 & up) kids?
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