Parents dread giving their kids consequences.
Your kid then pouts, storms off, gives them the silent treatment, or worse - makes the punishment a punishment for you. You know… the good ol’ ‘No Phone for a Week,’ consequence only to have your kid pester and bother you begging for it back, constantly begging to use your phone, or being out of contact for hours because ‘they don’t have a phone.’ It’s a tactic kids and teens use to wear down their parents, and more often than not it works! But, don’t worry - there is a way to avoid this resistance regarding consequences.
The answer is ….. Drum roll, please…..
“My kid has been struggling at school and at home a lot lately. We’ve taken away his phone and grounded him from seeing friends outside of school, but there’s not much improvement and we are running out of things to take away! He seems to care less and less every time we give a consequence.” - local parent
Often times as parents, we feel the need to utilize our power and prescribe a strict consequence regiment. We want to be sure we are addressing the negative behaviors, but fear piling up the consequences in fear that our kid will revolt and make our lives a living hell. Plus, who has extra time and brain power to monitor 5 different consequences for one kid? Let alone if you have more than one child! Phew. No way.
Negotiating consequences WITH your kid is an easy tweak to make, that results in more ‘buy in,’ and compliance from your kid as they are actively engaged and participating in the process of determining a consequence. It offers autonomy to your youth in a time when they may feel powerless to the consequence of not meeting and expectation. Teens and youth tend to describe this method as feeling, “more fair.”
The only catch (of course, there’s always a little catch) to this strategy is that it takes some preparation on your part to come up with options ahead of the conversation. But, if you are following our tips from 5 Ways You’re Allowing Your Kids to Beat You at Your Own Consequences, you should already be taking a cool-down time prior to prescribing a consequence, and during that time you can prepare 2 logical consequences to address the behavior/missed expectation.
Here are a few examples:
Would you prefer to lose dessert tonight or go to bed 30 minutes earlier?
Would you prefer to lose your phone for the day or have to vacuum/mop the house?
Would you prefer to lose screen time for the week or cancel your weekend sleepover plans?
I want to clarify that including your youth in negotiating consequences is NOT a form of compromising: we are not bargaining on the consequence, rather we are introducing two equivalent options for them to make a choice.
Of course, this strategy does not work in every situation and should not completely replace assigning a singular, specific consequence. I suggest parents utilize this strategy when children/teens react appropriately to the discussion of the expectation not being met, as a token of appreciation for good participation during the interaction. If there is arguing, tantruming, or talking back. it may not be effective or appropriate to offer them a choice in the consequences this time around.
For many of you this will help you collaborate better with your youth, and avoid consequences becoming a punishment for you as the parent. If you’d like more support with implementing these tips with your youth, reach out to us directly by emailing Tina@EmpowerFamilyTherapy.com
Consequences still not going smoothly with your kid? Check out our blog post about how your kids are outsmarting you when it comes to consequences