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Parenting Tip of the Month

Consequences and Behavior

Some do not believe in providing negative consequences for a child’s unwanted behavior. The problem with that thought is that we live in a world full of consequences, both positive and negative. When children behave poorly, the social consequences are generally poor. When kids do well, the results are usually good. It is the same for adults. How do we prepare our children for adulthood and the real world if we fail to teach them about consequences while they are young?

We believe the most frequent parental mistake is passivity, doing nothing. Parents sometimes believe, ‘he’ll change . . . he’ll outgrow it . . . he’ll rethink it,’ probably not. We know that we do not control our children, but we must control the home environment. Whether our children change their unwanted behavior based on the consequences we provide is clearly, their choice. Providing those consequences, both positive and negative, is our responsibility.

We are reminded of a story told to us by the parent of an adolescent who was drinking and using other drugs. Despite professional counseling and the negative consequences this mother provided for her son’s drug use, her son continued to use. At one point, the son told his mother that no matter what consequences she provided, he would continue his drug use. The mother said, “Son, I will continue to provide negative consequences every time I find you drinking or using drugs, whether or not you stop. I will continue to do so until you are an adult and have moved from this home. And not because I hate you, but because I love you and I believe it is the right thing for me to do. Drug use is dangerous and harmful to your health and development. I will do whatever I can, always, to help keep you safe. Not using drugs is your choice. Providing the negative consequences for your drug use is my responsibility.”

When our children tell us that they will continue to engage in harmful, inappropriate behavior, they often mean it, but they are also testing us and our resolve. When we provide appropriate negative consequences every time we see the unwanted behavior, we transfer the responsibility for change directly to our children. Many strong-willed adolescent children begin thinking about changing their destructive behaviors only after they are convinced that mom or dad will not give in.