Are You Stuck in the Consequences Trap?
When your child misbehaves, do you issue consequences only to see no change in behavior? As a parent, it's super frustrating to take time to decide on an appropriate consequence, muster fortitude to enforce the consequence then reap few results from your efforts. You end up feeling miserable, your child feels miserable and little gets accomplished.
The Consequences Trap
Many of us have been conditioned that misbehavior warrants some type of punishment or consequence. Odds are that you were punished as a child. Teachers throughout history have used tactics that include students wearing a dunce cap, writing sentences and losing recess. Now media news coverage often includes stories of children being forced to stand on street corners wearing signs around their necks. Some of your religious beliefs may even support a punishment model. But as some of you may also know from experience, punishment and consequences mostly breed resentment, revenge, rebellion and retreat, writes Jane Nelsen in Positive Discipline [Ballentine Books, 2006.] This is only one of the reasons that consequences don't yield a high return.
Another reason that consequences do not produce the results we'd like is that consequences focus on what a child should not do. Many consequences are about losing a privilege, suffering, enduring, doing without, etc. But that doesn't help a child know what to do instead. Did you learn to ride a bike by not riding it? Nope. You got on the bike and tried and tried again until you mastered the skill. Changing behavior involves learning new skills. Negative consequences do not teach what to do instead in the future. So basically, when we're using consequences, we are saying to kids, "Don't do this again" but we aren't helping them learn something different to try the next time they find themselves in a similar situation.
Shifting to a Focus on Solutions Mindset
So if not consequences, then what? How can parents help kids actually change behavior? There's a more simple idea, but requires that parents make a big shift in how we view the idea of "discipline." It works better if we actually work with kids to focus on solutions to the problem behavior. In the process of focusing on solutions, we focus on what we do want to happen instead and we help children learn new life skills in the process.
Here's a five minute video of me explaining more about this concept to "Focus on Solutions" using a Positive Discipline Tool Card.
I'm a Certified Positive Discipline Trainer and all of the Positive Discipline parenting tools focus on solutions in some way or another. In the video, I mentioned a newsletter issue that offers more about the tool of "focusing on solutions." You can get this "focus on solutions" newsletter issue (it's free) and get more support by clicking here. I send out a new parenting tool each week via the newsletter, so if you'd like to sign up for that (again, it's absolutely free) sign up for the parenting tool newsletter here. (I will never share your e-mail address with anyone, ever.) In closing, I'd love to offer you four tips that will help you on your parenting journey to start focusing on solutions.
4 Tips to Shift to the Mindset of Focusing on Solutions
- Decide What Behavior You DO Want to See -Ask yourself, "What do I want my child to do instead of the current behavior?" You can call this a "replacement behavior."
- Plan for New Learning - Ask, "How can my child learn this replacement behavior? What skills does he/she need?" Start teaching those skills. Give your child opportunities to practice the new skills.
- Allow for Mistakes - on your part and for your child. Mistakes are a part of the learning process. When we are learning something new, we usually make plenty of mistakes along the way. Accept mistakes as part of the learning process. (Remember how many mistakes you made learning to ride a bike!)
- Be an Encouraging Parent - Adopt an attitude of encouragement when teaching your child new skills and working through the mistakes that will arise during the learning process. Be patient with the process and encourage your child to be patient too and to celebrate baby steps.
You can be a calm and encouraging parent.
Certified Positive Discipline Lead Trainer