Using consequences effectively

When children disrespect our authority or rules, parents sometimes find themselves unglued, feeling angry and disappointed. This can be a difficult mindset with which to assign reasonable consequences. When parents’ emotions are high, consequences may be too severe to enforce, such as grounding for 2 months, taking electronics away for extended periods of time, and other punishments that parents find too difficult to follow through with. When parents set unreasonable consequences and do not follow through, this results in children not respecting parental authority. This lack of respect seeps into other areas, such as poor follow through on household responsibilities or school work. How can parents set reasonable consequences when emotions are high?

Setting up a behavior contract can be an effective way of managing this.

1) Define your expectations/rules.
2) Determine the consequence for a violation of expectations.
3) Discuss the behavior contract with your child during a calm time so he/she knows about it in advance. Example: Expectation: Curfew= 11:00PM Curfew violation consequence: grounded for one week.

By defining the expectations and consequences during a calm frame of mind, parents and children both have direction when a rule violation occurs. The child knows what the consequence is before he/she chooses not to meet the expectation. The parent and child both know what consequence to assign if/when the event occurs. Doing so allows the child to make an informed choice to violate a rule, while also allowing the parent control over consequences without assigning them during a highly emotional state. This allows the parent to remain authoritative in parenting, thereby leaving the parent-child role differential intact.