Do you fit into this category?
“I have tried everything!! I have tried reward systems, I have tried consequences and I have tried talking it out!! Nothing works!!! I don’t know how to get my child to stop ______!”
First of all I want you to know almost every parent has felt that way at one point or another, and if you are a parent reading this and haven’t felt that way consider yourself lucky. Second I want to say behavior is complicated and parenting is even more complicated. There is no set way to do things and children don’t come with a hand book.
So let’s break this down.
The key to consequences is consistency. If you are good with consequences one day and then let it slide the next day most kids are willing to take the gamble. If you let things slide but your partner is strict, your child might behave around your partner but not you, or resent your partner for their strictness. You could also undo the progress your partner made. Being on the same page with how you discipline will help you get the results you want. If you and your partner don’t agree find a middle ground because neither one of you will win if you do things differently.
Natural Based Consequences
When using natural based consequences a parent tries to provide consequences that parallel the real world. For example, if you miss use the phone, the phone gets taken away until responsibility is proven. If you cannot get ready in time for an event you go with what you could accomplish in the given amount of time or you miss the event all together. If you cannot play nicely with a toy, the toy gets taken away. If you break a toy, it does not get replaced. This method helps children learn the consequences of the real world and prepares them for what’s to come.
Chore Based Grounding
Chore based grounding means when a child does something wrong their consequence is that they have to do a certain amount of chores and can do nothing fun until the chores are complete. It is important that parents do not let any fun activity happen until the tasks are complete or this will not be as effective. An example would be, if a child swears at you, he would have to scrub the kitchen floor. If a child misses curfew, he would have to clean the bathroom cupboards and organize the book shelves. If a child is caught drinking she would have to clean the curtains, organize the book shelves, clean the basement and sweep the driveway. In all these examples the child does not get to have sweets, have electronics, socialize, or any other fun activities until the chores are completed.
The positive of this consequence system is they are using good behavior to earn their privileges back.
Withholding reinforcement just means you pick a preferred item or items to take away as a consequence of their bad behavior. You determine how much you take away based on the severity of the behavior.
This is a positive consequence method because you are letting your child know you do not approve of the specific behavior.
Talking to your Child
Sometimes talking to your child is amazingly effective. Simply talking is not always enough but some times it is. In this situation you sit your child down and you ask them what happened and you make a plan to prevent the behavior from happening ever again. You should be doing this with the above mentioned consequence methods as well, but some times this is all that is necessary.
Ex: While talking to my 4 year old I asked, “Why did you poop your pants today?
“Because I was having too much fun.”
“How can I help you to not poop your pants anymore?”
“Just tell me to go potty.”
After this conversation my child went a month without an accident.
Like I said parenting is difficult. Shaping behavior is also difficult. Do not be afraid to seek help if you feel like your child’s behavior out of control. Some times a person can offer a lot help from an outside perspective and training in this field. Remember being ineffective with your consequence system is common and does not make you a bad parent!
The next article will be on reinforcement schedules and how to encourage more of the behaviors you WANT. So check back in a couple of days if you are interested in learning more about that.