I have been a counselor for more than six years. I’ve worked in St. Louis, San Antonio, and Dallas. Most of my work has been with youth and families. Of all the issues I’ve worked with my clients on, one issue is predominant: behavior issues with children.
Many families see me because their child is acting out in school or not doing what parents tell them. The parents do all they can in their child’s school to give them support and resources to succeed, but their kid continues to struggle.
At home, the child refuses to do their homework or chores. They constantly fight with their siblings and won’t listen to parent’s requests. Parents are out of ideas, frustrated, and tired of this behavior – which has gone on for years. They feel they are doing all they possibly can but nothing is working.
Balancing Love and Consequences
Parents have an extremely difficult job of balancing love and support with consequences and boundaries. Many parents around their 30s and 40s are fantastic at giving their child love and support. They praise them for every positive action. The child knows their greatest cheerleader in life are their parents.
Parents are great at giving love and support but struggle with enforcing consequences and boundaries. When kids misbehave, it’s common for parents to talk/reason with their kids rather than implementing a consequence. Children are not affected by talking and do not see it as a consequence.
Talking doesn’t have an effect on kids because they don’t care about it. They do care if you put them in time out because they hit their sibling. They care if Xbox is taken away because they didn’t complete their homework. They care if social media is suspended for two days because of disrespectful talk.
No Consequences Means No Boundaries
When kids don’t have consequences for their actions, they feel they can do whatever they want. It doesn’t matter if they do something wrong because nothing happens. There is no punishment or action that tells the child, what you just did is unacceptable. Giving children all love and support with no consequences and boundaries leads to behavior issues.
Maybe parents had a negative experience with punishment growing up and want to make sure they stay far away from that with their own kids. Parents don’t have to use the same punishments they had growing up. But implementing some consequences for misbehavior is a must.
Implementing consequences helps children gain a real understanding of how the world works. Natural events create consequences to keep things in order and running well. It hurts when we put our hand on a hot stove. We get a ticket when we run a red light. At work, we could lose our job if we yell at our boss. Consequences help us behave appropriately and give us boundaries. This should be the same standard with our kids.
It’s hard to know what consequences are appropriate. Here are some to get you started.
Tone of Voice
Sometimes all parents need to do is let their child know they mean business. Using a stern tone and slightly raising your voice could be effective to get your child to change his behavior. This doesn’t mean yelling at them. Just use a firm, commanding tone. You are in charge, not them.
Time Out or Sent to Room
It can be effective to send toddlers and young children to time out when they misbehave. Have your child sit or stand away from where they were misbehaving for as many minutes as they are old. If they are 3, they sit in time out for 3 minutes. Sitting away from where they were misbehaving takes them out of that stressful environment and gives them a moment to calm down. After the timer goes off, it’s important to review why they had to go to time out. Have them apologize or make amends for their misbehavior. Make sure to give them a hug and reinforce you love them but did not like their actions.
Take Away Toys or Entertainment
Most kids are motivated by their toys. Taking away your child’s Legos or cell phone when they misbehave can be an effective consequence to enforce. It’s important to let them know the standard ahead of time. Taking your child’s toys away without warning them will lead them feeling confused, resentful, and angry. Tell them what will happen if they don’t follow the rules or if they misbehave in a certain way. It’s important to be clear in your expectations and consequences.
Chores or Activity-Based Consequence
Making your child do a deep clean of the bathroom could be an effective consequence for misbehavior. Giving your child some chore or activity they don’t want to do will takes away their free time – and kids want their free time. The activity should be some form of work but not anything that would put them in any danger.
The main point with addressing misbehavior is implementing consistent consequences. Any consequence should be enough of a negative experience that it encourages the child to make different choices in the future.
Enforcing consistent consequences will help your child is hard. Doing so will help address misbehavior issues. Continue to love and support your kids, but don’t forget about consequences and boundaries. You are loving them even more when you enforce consequences for their actions.