After 13+ years of parenting, teaching 100’s of public school children, and reading more books than I can count, I feel confident in one thing. This parenting thing is HARD, ya’ll. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer for our parenting questions. I really thought there was. I believed the formula was the answer.
If you do these steps, your kid will turn out like “this.” You’ve probably heard some of these too…
If you, put them on a schedule…they will sleep through the night at 3 months.
If you are consistent in your training…they will obey the first time you ask.
If you conduct a potty boot camp…they will potty train in less than 3 days.
I have come to realize just how laughable this really is. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of the above ideas. In fact, most of them have worked for me at least with some of my kids, some of the time. The trouble lies in our demanding that they work in all situations. And if we do that, we are ignoring the fact that children are humans. Natural born, flesh-filled, sinners (Romans 6:23). Even the best of us are prone to give in to momentary pleasures, throwing caution to the wind.
So are we hopeless in the quest for getting our kids to do what we ask? Must we throw in the towel on respect and obedience?
But we might need to change up a few traditional practices if we want to see a change in our kids. We are going to need to get CREATIVE! Hopefully you’ve figured out by now that kids are different. All of them. Between my four children and the numerous other children I have taught, I have seen everything from perfectionist to uninterested, compliant to defiant, thoughtful to manipulative, and calm to active. The list goes on and on and I certainly haven’t seen it all.
Each child will need unique consequences and each situation will need some creativity. So let’s look at some creative ways to get to the heart of the matter and spur them towards that respect and obedience we so greatly desire as parents.
Start with obedience.
Before we can even get to the business of giving consequences for wrong behavior, we need to set the stage for obedience. Our kids need to know exactly what is expected of them and why. They also need to understand the consequences of disobedience and how/why we have authority over them to begin with. With little ones, this knowledge can wait, but if your child is over the age of 5, it’s time to make sure he/she understand these things before giving out consequences.
If this isn’t something you’ve done with your kids, click on the image below for tips and ideas to get the conversation started.
Create simple rules.
Rules should be few and simple. You can’t create a constitution full of detailed circumstances because your kids will indeed come up with a new behavior not covered. Instead, make 1-3 simple rules that encompass that atmosphere you want to create for your family.
They can’t be too difficult to remember or too vague that they include loop holes. For a long time, my rule was simply LOVE. Quite some time ago, my friend Lara introduced me to her version of this concept…Love Up and Love Out. First we love God and serve Him. Second we love others through our love for God. I’ve used that saying ever since. After all, love covers a multitude of sins and this rule really does covers every offense in my home.
I might ask: How are you showing love in this situation? Is there something that you could do to be more loving? When you didn’t pick up that shoe on the stairs, do you think you showed love and concern for the well-being of your family who might trip over it?
The Bible says that the greatest commandment is love. Teaching our kids to put this at the foundation of their choices reinforces this truth and it helps kids to understand the WHY behind obedience.
Get creative with your consequences
As much as possible, I avoid terms like “time-out” and “restriction.” For the most part, I have found that a blanket consequence is ineffective in molding hearts and changing behavior. This is where natural and logical consequences come in.
A natural consequence will be administered without mom’s help. For example, a child runs on the sidewalk, trips and skins his knee. Natural consequence. Ouch.
A logical consequence is closely related to the offense and is aimed at teaching responsibility for your actions. This consequence is administered by a calm and collected adult wishing to help children make wise choices. They aren’t one size fits all and don’t even need to be the same every single time. The idea is to find something that hurts enough to change the behavior, leaving a related memory for next time the child considers doing the same thing. For example, if you take away a party with friends because a child leaves his bike in the snow, it’s not directly related and may not be effective. If you take away the bike- now we’re talking.
Whenever possible, I include scripture with consequences, but don’t beat yourself up about this and don’t preach a sermon either. I find that the best faith-based discussions are done when kids are not in the thick of trouble. In the moment they are focused on the consequence, guilt and pain. If you lecture, kids might get defensive and it will be wasted. Save it for a time when there is no conflict.
Creative Consequences for Kids
If you can’t find your shoes, mom will help you find them, but there will be a finder’s fee.
If you can not behave kindly toward your family, mom will assume that you need some time to think about it and send you to another room to sit (usually the bed).
If you fight with your sibling, I will assume you have nothing better to do and give you a chore.
After you are sent into a room to clean up, I come behind and take the items that were left out. I assume that you no longer want these items and place them in “toy time out” for a week. (Mom could also donate the items, if this is a chronic problem.)
If you are tipping your chair back, I will assume that it is unsafe for you to use it and you will stand for the remainder of dinner.
If you do not have good table manners, you will be asked to dine elsewhere.
If you are too loud, whiny, or speaking unkindly, you will lose the freedom to speak. (Works really well in the car, too.)
If you can’t get ready for an activity on time, I will deduct that amount of time from the activity once we get there. (Remember not to punish mom or the siblings because of one child’s negligence.)
A few creative consequences ideas from my friends...
If they play around instead of getting ready for bed, we don’t have time for stories. ~Christy
The kids weren’t diligent to do their schoolwork today so there wasn’t time to go to the library. ~Debby
Somebody ate his treat without permission so he did not get his treat later when everyone else was eating theirs. ~Julie
If teachers offer incentives for extra work or even situations like AWANA, I don’t nag them…I let them feel what it’s like not to get the reward or fun prize. ~Tiana
You splash water out of the tub, you wipe it up (works for any mess). ~Leslie
If you don’t eat what mama cooks you’re gonna be hungry! ~Amy
The rule is: We pay for half your car. We own the bottom half. If you’re being irresponsible, our half (the one with the wheels) stays home, in the driveway. ~Pam
We’ve set a “start-getting-for-bed time” and a “lights-out-time.” If they get ready fast, they can use the remainder to read. If they play around getting ready for bed, they can’t… the lights out time doesn’t change. ~Josh
I also don’t cap markers that were left uncapped. Dried out markers are no fun. ~Leslie
A few ideas from Creative Correction by Lisa Whelchel…
About an hour before bed, have a whole house “clean sweep.” Set the timer for 15 minutes. For each item left out after the timer goes off, the kids go to bed 5 minutes earlier.
If you have forgotten to put away an item and it has been confiscated, you can buy it back for $1.00.
If a chore is not done diligently, have your child practice doing it over and over again. She will learn more from sweeping the floor 3-4 times because her first effort wasn’t done well.
If siblings can’t stop fighting, have them go the whole next day without the pleasure of each other’s company. They can’t talk, eat, play, or do school in the same room.
God is always just. There will be a consequence. Even if it never becomes obvious to us. Teaching your children that lesson now reaps great benefits both spiritually and physically. If you heard anything at all in this post, I hope you heard that parenting is not a one-size-fits-all activity. Some of these ideas might not work. Some great ideas were not even listed here. And most importantly, no one is speaking badly about any parenting ideas. Here in the trenches, we need all the help we can get.
Mom, you rock. You are loved and treasured even with peanut butter in your hair. Keep doing this thing.
Need help thinking of a consequence when you are mad? Read How to think of a Better Consequence When You are Mad
Need toddler ideas? Read Parenting the Toddler Years.