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Parents Overdoing Consequences

Parents Watch Your Consequences

You may not think there is such a thing as overdoing consequences.  What?  If they do something really bad, shouldn’t there be a really tough consequence?  Yes, but there’s more to giving discipline than just carrying a big stick.

It’s tempting to think that an excessive consequence will really make a child think twice next time about making the same mistake. Being grounded from everything for a year, no car until they’re twenty, no cell phone until they graduate from high school. These kinds of consequences will certainly show your strength is apparent but they might teach your child something other than what you want them to learn.

If they know there is hope that they can go back to a normal life after sticking through a tough consequence, they have something to really work for. Being grounded forever gives them no hope.  When someone has no hope, they have nothing to lose.  This brings on more resistance and more reason to get into trouble – at least it will feel like they have a life.

Do you know what you really happens when you ground a child for a year or more? You also ground yourself for a year or more. That’s right, the real strength in any consequence comes from how consistently the parent works with it and holds to it.  If you commit the child to the punishment, you commit yourself just as tightly.

You could ground your child until they turn eighteen, but if it gets too hard for you to manage and you relax the rules after two months, the threat of excessive punishment means nothing.  What kids learn is that you don’t really mean what you say. You may have a really strong bark, but you won’t bite very hard. You would do better to have a shorter consequence that you can hold 100% of the time.

Here is the important part – children being given a consequence need to know how they can move forward. Just being grounded forever isn’t enough on your part. You want them to learn something from their experience.

On the flip side – if you should manage to stay with the strict enforcement for a long time with no return of privileges in sight, refer to the above paragraph of having no hope.  Be prepared for something will likely happen again to break the monotony.

Something in between is more reasonable and more feasible for parents to pull off.  Remember it’s the “pulling it off completely” part that actually matters here, not how intimidating and lengthy the consequence can be.

Here’s an example about electronic gadgets like cell phones, game systems, TVs, etc.  You could start with zero gadgets at first, then plan for one of them to return after a few weeks with good behavior.  Maybe something small and easy to monitor like one hour a week.

After you see how responsible they are with their one hour of gadget time, they can have an opportunity to either have a longer time with that gadget or perhaps an additional short amount of time with another one of their gadgets. They slowly build back their life as they show more responsibility.

And when you see that they have been consistent with their efforts, they are truly rewarded by having their fun things back. A kid who’s grounded forever most likely won’t appreciate their freedom in the same way. When and if it ever comes.

Parents Overdoing Consequences


Erika Krull, MS, LMHP

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP is a practicing licensed mental health counselor in Nebraska.


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APA Reference
Krull, E. (2009). Parents Overdoing Consequences. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 17, 2020, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/family/2009/09/parents-overdoing-consequences/

 

Last updated: 2 Sep 2009
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network (blogs.psychcentral.com) prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.