I am often asked, “When can we use consequences with our child? You want us to be teaching and supporting brain change, we get it, but when is the brain ready for consequences?” My first response, Children from difficult beginnings cannot make sense of consequences until they experience felt safety from the inside out.
And then, my second response–for one thing, consequences can be effective when a consequence can be imposed without a flipped lid, red zone, blow out that lasts for 5 hours. That’s a good sign.
When you feel your attachment is strong with your child because you have done so much excellent attunement, bonding, and relationship building.
If you are going to impose a consequence, there are some things to keep in mind.
When I studied with Jane Nelson of Positive Parenting some 30 years ago, she called these the 5 Rs and they are spot on.
Respectful: Never deliver a consequence when your lid is flipped, so your higher brain is in charge of your presentation. Always use clear, kind, matter-of-fact words, that have compassion in them. “I see you are choosing to miss your Kindle time tomorrow” in response to your child not stopping Kindle time when asked.
Related: If you can’t relate the consequence to the negative behavior, then a consequence is probably not the right intervention.
Reasonable: There is no room in a consequence for “shame, blame or pain.” A child will learn nothing about the problem behavior if the consequence is delivered in the form of punishment. Consequences are reasonable in time, duration, and intensity and punishments are unreasonable in that they create shame, blame or pain. Children do not need to hurt to learn. Thank goodness, right, or Spanish class would have been seriously abusive for many of us.
Revealed: Before you level a consequence, let the child know what the consequence is. Did you see that word “before”? If you didn’t know you would go to jail for robbing a bank, everyone would be tempted to do it and half of us would.
Repeatable: When you give a consequence, make sure you ask the child, “Please tell me what you heard, honey.” It always needs to be repeated back to you for understanding and brain wiring. If the child refuses to repeat it back, then probably time to stop the thing that is causing the consequence for a few months. What? Yep, put that scooter right in the rafters for a few months if you child refuses to repeat back the consequence of riding it in the street. Your child is not mature enough for that activity right now. Try again in a few months. Will a fit be pitched? You bet your sweet high tops there will be a red zone reaction. That’s okay. You are the parent and you need to act like a parent. Giving the same privilege over and over to misbehavior and refusal is the definition of insanity. Blowouts, whining, begging, name-calling, breaking things, etc. should not end in the child getting her way. You are putting a pin in that behavior if you cave of the next time she wants something you don’t want her to have.
And there you have the quickest, easiest lesson on using consequences well.
Just one last reminder, if leveling consequences using the 5 R’s isn’t working, consequencing is the wrong intervention.
Look what is coming at the end of August…August 28th to be exact–Love Matters Parenting Society. Don’t miss this. Come for the content and stay for the company.
UPCOMING In-Office ADOPTION SUPPORT GROUP facilitated by Ce Eshelman, LMFT: Adoptive Parent Support Group, August 14, 2019. Support Group is every 2nd Wednesday of every month from 6 pm to 8 pm online. Open to the public. Free childcare provided.
AUTISM Support Group: Monthly Strictly Social Autism Spectrum Disorder Night for Tweens (11 yrs – 16 yrs) at The Attach Place. Open to the public. NEW DAY: Every third Monday from 5:30 to 7pm. Gluten-free snacks provided. Please RSVP to Andrea@attachplace.com so we get enough snacks. This is a monthly social group for the youth; and caregivers will have an opportunity to connect, chat, and chill in a separate space. There will also be occasional fun field trips, like bowling, ice skating, roller skating, etc. A donation of $5.00 will be accepted for food and supervision if you are able, but please don’t let that be an attendance barrier because the group is FREE. ASD kids need a social life and this is a great way to make it happen.
GIVE A BOOK OF SUPPORT TO A FELLOW PARENT ON THE ADOPTION JOURNEY: Drowning With My Hair On Fire: Insanity Relief For Adoptive Parents by Ce Eshelman, LMFT. Daily inspirational reading for those who sometimes find it hard to keep hope alive. There is hope for healing. Buy from Amazon or order a discounted copy here.