Sometimes we get too soft in our parenting. We want the best for our children, and we sometimes don’t realize that the best for our child doesn’t always look very pretty. These are called “consequences.” Today I wanted to talk about consequences that make sense for kids. It’s our struggles and our consequences that make us learn and become stronger and more apt to make right decisions. If we don’t have consequences, you might hear this phrase, “Your kid is a brat!” (link goes to one of my previous parenting posts).
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Yes, I definitely believe in rewards, lifting our children up and keeping things positive. Here are 15 positive reinforcement ideas for kids if you want to find techniques to help create the balance. However, I also believe that consequences are a part of life. We need to teach our kids how to live in the real world where our actions, good or bad, have ramifications. We learn from our mistakes. It’s hard that life is like this, but it’s often the pain that brings us to a place where we seek repentance, forgiveness and truly understand our need for God. Further I have heard it said, “It’s the rocks in the bed that give the stream its song.” We too often want to make our children’s lives pain free, not ever teaching them how to, “…rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:3-5. While we have an important role in protecting our children from evil, we should also realize there are times they need to experience consequences and pain in life. We can teach them how to handle it in faith, hope and repentance.
When we are giving consequences to our kids, I think it is very important to give consequences that make sense for the situation. I have found that when parenting in the moment, it’s not always clear at that time. Therefore, I wanted to give you a list of some real examples from our lives to help to start to think along the line of consequences that make sense in certain situations. It will help us mentally prepare for what may come in the future. Many of these are real situations that have happened in our family. Some of these are examples from friends. Some of these are just typical parenting experiences.
One thing I’d like to note is that grace triumphs over mercy. We need to decide when it is appropriate to add consequences for teaching purposes. We must establish what is willful defiance vs. childish irresponsibility. Yes, childish irresponsibility will sometimes need to experience natural or set consequences so kids can learn. However, these consequences will come after multiple infractions and trying to teach through the moment rather than just offer discipline. We often use the phrase, “Try that again,” in our family. When I was in my child psych class in college I remember the teacher giving the example of a child dropping items into the toilet. They were not being willfully defiant. They are little kids who are learning about their world. Most likely, they are curious about the sounds something makes as it lands in the water. They are curious about the splash. They want to see if things sinks and floats. They are exploring. Therefore, we would see that example as part of the “childish irresponsibility” category and teach through it. It becomes willful defiance when you have explained to them them dropping things in the toilet is not appropriate (not to mention sanitary) and there will be a consequence if it happens again.
Further, I want to clarify that we should look at patterns of behavior. If you have a responsible child who normally remembers things for school but once in a blue moon forgets their homework assignment, then it’s definitely appropriate to run it to school. However, if you are dealing with a child who has shown a lot of irresponsibility and forgetfulness in this area, you are doing them no justice by bailing them out every time.
Consequences that Make Sense for Different Parenting Situations
- We have a child who tends to be impulsive and can be destructive. Some of the behavior we see from this includes ripping holes in items, coloring on things and using scissors to cut things that should not be cut. In the past, we have taken items away. What she destroys she no longer has as a possession, and she gets another toy taken away as well. However, I don’t think this has been speaking to her. A consequence we just decided would be a better fit would be getting her to replace the item. She will be working off the cost of the item she just destroyed. I will be having her do extra jobs for me until the item is paid for through her hard work.
- Are your kids not fulfilling their responsibilities at home or in their school work? The natural consequence is that they don’t get time outside of the house doing the extra things until their responsibilities at home are finished. Sometimes these are the hardest to follow through on because we know our kids are missing out on fun things – sports, parties, play dates, etc.
- I have a friend who has older children who set their own alarms and get themselves up in the morning. One daughter wasn’t waking up for school in time, and it was a struggle in the morning to get out the door. One morning, the daughter missed the bus. Her mom made her walk to school. It was a three mile walk to school, so she let her walk a good distance and then drove her the rest of the way. However, the daughter did figure out a way to make the bus rather than needing to walk and receive an unexcused late slip. Yes, it is OK to let your child experienced unexcused late slips and homework penalties because of their negligence.
- I often find huge messes from my children’s explorations. I think that sometimes it feels easier, as a mom, to just clean up the mess. I have found our bathroom covered in water or areas of our house covered in art supplies or toys. Let them clean it up. If they know they are responsible for picking up every little piece of scrap of paper after cutting up an entire sheet of paper for fun, they might consider the process more – like cutting over a recycle bin. I know this is very obvious, but I put it in here because I know I often take the short cut of just cleaning it up because I don’t want to have to worry about the process of making them do it. They need to experience cleaning up after their own messes, spills and mistakes.
- Is your child misbehaving for other adults? This has happened to us, and sometimes the best consequence is helping kids learn to say sorry. I have had my children not only say sorry in person but also write notes to apologize for behavior. It’s hard to say sorry, and going through a process to make that happens speaks volumes to kids. It may mean taking the time to drive back to someone’s house or the school. The process of taking responsibility and learning what forgiveness looks like is such an important lesson for children to learn.
- One things we have experienced is having our children not go to bed easily for a babysitter. Above is a picture of a chart we have on our wall right now. We work at our church in a marriage ministry. It runs later, and we want our kids to get to bed at a reasonable time. Therefore, on those night we have hired a babysitter to come pick the kids up at church and get them in bed. However, it wasn’t working because our kids weren’t cooperating at bed time We explained to our kids that we pay money so they can get to bed before we get home. If they don’t go to bed, they are wasting our money. Therefore, we made a chart. They have to pay us back the money we pay for the time they are not cooperating with the babysitter. They do jobs to earn the money to pay for the sitter.
- Going to bed well tends a challenge for many kids in general. If you have kids that often get out of bed, a trick I learned in teaching is if they take time away from you, you take time away from them. In teaching, I would take away recess time. In parenting, it looks a bit different. If you tend to get them in bed at 7:30 and they keep coming down until 8:00, their bedtime the next night would be 7:00. The evening time, after kids go to bed, is valuable time in marriages as well as re-charging personally. If the kids are sabotaging that time, leading to frustration, they need to understand that you will take the time back in other ways.
- Not following God’s ways is just a part of being human. We sin…all the time….so do our kids. Our goal is that, through the experience of God’s grace and forgiveness we will come to repentance. We want that for our kids as well. We also want to teach them scripture that focuses on specific sins that so easily entangle us. Part of my teaching is to help my kids learn about Gods ways by helping them learn to memorize scripture. Above you see a picture of my daughter memorizing scripture through writing out a verse a number of times. She had been struggling to live at peace with her siblings, and I wanted to find a way to get this scripture in her mind and heart. I have been known to have kids memorize scripture while in time out. I have such a vivid memory of my oldest, in dramatic tone, reciting the verse, “The LORD does not like lying lips, but He delights in man who is truthful. – Proverbs 12:22” when she was struggling with being honest. You might fight a scripture printable helpful like the heart chart at When You Rise or the great scripture resource chart at Doorpost, which I own. This might look like a child saying the verse, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” – Psalm 19:14 when using potty talk. There are any number of verses kids can memorize to tackle the struggles they have in obedience and doing the right thing.
- Are your kids whining and crying to get what they want? If so, I have a post on the topic that you might find helpful. There have been mixed reviews about this idea, and I want to make something perfectly clear. We in no way want to stuff our children’s emotions. We want to give them time to pull it together so we can discuss their feelings in a healthy way. We don’t want our kids to dictate the atmosphere of the home and whine and cry when they don’t get exactly what they want. Therefore, time away is a consequence that makes sense to give them time to get control of their behavior so we can talk through their feelings appropriately.
- We have tried a number of consequences for our issues with our kids continually messing up spaces in the house with a unwillingness to want to help to clean up their stuff. One consequence that makes sense is to take things away, either temporarily or permanently. We have done both. One general rule of thumb is that if your kids can’t keep their toys picked up and taken care of well, perhaps they have too many toys. We have said to our kids, “We have messed up. We have given you too many things, which is obviously not a manageable amount for you. We need to make some choices about what things we are going to give away to kids in need.” We then start the hard process of making decisions about what to get rid of. We try different amounts of stuff until we get to a reasonable load for them to manage. Here’s a post that gives more insight to what that might look like. We have also done the Saturday bin where items are removed in a bin until Saturday, when they can get them back. I have also put confiscated toys in the prize bin. Therefore, a reward becomes getting the toys back that were taken away because they couldn’t care for them properly.
- We recently had an issue with our child’s attitude, respect level and immediate desire to be talking back. We received advice from our good friends the Pritchards, who make their living as family and marital coaches. I want to pass it along in case it’s helpful. First of all, I have to stay positive and calm in the training without getting frustrated – a huge struggle for me, to be candid. The magic phrase for us has been, “Try it again.” Any time there is talking back, whining, sass, etc. I say (in a real upbeat way), “Oh, try that again.” It gets super annoying for them to have to try it again over and over. They learn that it is easier to just interact in a cooperative way the first time. The girls have been learning that they won’t get what they want when they act like that and need to keep trying until they can express themselves appropriately. We try and teach them to say, “Yes, Mom” rather than arguing. If not, “Oh, try again.” I fell into the trap at engaging in the argument, trying to reason, and entertaining negotiations. It just doesn’t work at that age. I had to remove myself emotionally and verbally from the battle, which is so hard to do. Therefore, the consequence is to keep trying until they can get it right.
Was that all too wordy for you? I decided to make a quick glance chart printable to help with these situations and a few more not discussed in depth. You can also work on teaching kids to say please and thank you, teaching kids to share and helping kids handle anger in a healthy way.
A big key to raising kids is to get to their heart on the matters of obedience. If you are a parent working on raising up your children in a way that teaches the truth about God, I want to provide you with a few of our family favorite resources. (affiliate links)
- Jesus Storybook Bible – This is my favorite. I tear up throughout the story, and I am amazed at how beautifully they tell the gospel story and weave Jesus into each story from the creation of the world to the end of the New Testament. I even buy this book for friends who are wanting to learn more about the Christian faith. It tells God’s story in a way that makes so much sense.
- Long Story Short – Ten Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God – This is the Bible Study we are currently doing as a family, and I love it. I love that it ties the Old Testament stories to Jesus, like the “Jesus Storybook Bible.” It is an engaging way to interact with your kids, with questions geared for great discussion. My oldest (age 7) is especially loving it, and it always the one who goes and grabs the book to make sure we get our devotion done. There are 5 lessons a week that take about 10 minutes. It is super manageable and brings a lot of intention into your Christian parenting journey. Even today, my daughter was whining about not getting something her sister was able to get. They had learned about the story of Cain and the word “envy.” It was a great tie in to discussion about her current feelings. Although I haven’t read them, the same author has two other books – Old Story New and The Gospel Bible Story.
- Seeds Worship CDs – These are my favorite kid music CD’s to play in the car. They are not annoying! The music is well composed but straight scripture. My kids have easily memorized scriptures since we have these playing in the car. Here are some of their CD’s: Seeds of Courage, Seeds of Praise, Seeds of Character, Seeds Family Worship
- Grace for the Moment – I haven’t actually gone through this one with my kids, but I have heard great things. It is full of 365 different devotions to last throughout the year. It’s written by Max Lucado, and I tend to love all of his work, so I look forward to doing this one in the future.
Written by my mentors, parents of 11 kids, Parenting with Truth and Grace Series, will quickly become your go-to resource for Christian parenting.