Parents can count on this… our children will require correction. Correction often involves the need to administer consequences. Have you heard the expression “that’s a tough nut to crack”? Determining appropriate consequences in the correction process that will make changes in both the present and the future in the lives of our children is one of those hard ‘nuts to crack’! Instead of allowing this dilemma to paralyze your parenting, persist through the process to crack open rewards that will far exceed your efforts. Determine a course of action that will:
- motivate the child to amend the behavior
- guide the child to change direction
- prepare the child not to repeat his folly
- inspire the child how to make application to other areas of life
Consequences can be a powerful educator; they are a natural or artificial form of ‘pain’ that should prompt change. Pain calls attention to a condition that desperately needs examination. The pain of consequences warns the child that something is not right; it helps the child focus and gain control over a particular moral weakness. When consequences are put in place with intention and logic, they can have a restorative purpose. With those particularly hard ‘nuts to crack’, it is critical to apply consequences that will expose the issue of the heart, endure past the present misdeed, and move toward restoring relationships.
Natural Organic Consequences
There are times that consequences for wrong actions take a natural form. In these instances, parents do not need to create consequences or enforce the ramifications of a child’s poor choice because the negative effect happens organically. Examples include:
- Parents instruct a child to walk, not run; the child disregards safety instructions then falls and skins his knee. The pain of the fall is a natural and adequate consequence.
- The child does not finish dinner in a timely manner; the necessary daylight to play outside that evening is naturally lost.
- A child fails to turn in her homework on time; the lower grade received is a natural consequence (neither the parents nor the child should appeal to the teacher for amnesty).
When a consequence occurs naturally, it’s usually not necessary to administer any additional consequences. Parents may express sympathy for their child’s plight and have a follow-up conversation with the child about the lessons that should be learned from this natural consequence.
Related Associated Consequences
Common sense tells us that not all bad acts deserve the same consequences. We should make the punishment fit the crime rather than come up with a random consequence that is unconnected to the offense. Sometimes logical, reasonable, and related consequences are straightforward. Parents observe and investigate to find the reason for the child’s disobedience or irresponsibility and are then able to structure connected consequences. Consider these examples:
- A child lollygags through her bedtime routine; the privilege of reading a bedtime story is forfeited for that night.
- A child is engrossed in playing video games so he does not complete his chores; the video game privilege would be removed until the child characteristically demonstrates responsibility.
- A child is on her phone at the wrong time or place, hindering obedience and responsibility; the phone is removed.
You get the picture. Once you find out what is hindering your child to come to the standard you have put in place and you consistently apply meaningful consequences by removing privileges, you’re on the road to effective heart-training.
Sometimes finding a relevant and associated consequence is challenging. Without a doubt, action is needed so the child will gain self-control over a particular moral weakness, but parental paralysis can set in. This can be a ‘tough nut to crack’. In our home it was at these times that we had to nearly stop life. Literally, we would stop the child by having the child sit in his/her room to contemplate his actions while answering some heart-probing questions.
- What did you do (or not do)?
- Why did you choose to go down this path?
- What could you have done for a better outcome?
- Who has been affected by this situation?
- How do you intend to make things right?
Asking carefully worded questions probes the heart of the matter and simultaneously the heart of the child. The point of this questioning is to take the child back to the point of decision — when the wrong choice was made. The questions cause a child to dig deep into his/her heart and confront his own sin, admit wrongdoing and consider what choice could have been made and can be made in the future. Ideally, the offending child will reconcile the pride in his heart ending in a desire to repair relationships with those affected by the poor behavior.
While the child considers the questions previously mentioned, parents should take time to contemplate:
- Have I provided age-appropriate instruction to this child regarding this issue? Does this child know the right thing to do?
- Does this child have this or similar issues frequently; does this behavior characterize this child?
- What may be going on behind the scenes that might have factored into this behavior?
- What would have motivated this child to this action?
Parental reflection may expose training deficiencies. Resolve to improve and make any necessary apologies – which will speak volumes to the child. Motive isn’t always obvious to parents but it likely is to the child. Kids know their own hearts, but are often reluctant to admit any wrongdoing or sinful actions.
Time and Space
Giving the child time and space to examine the internal motive will allow the child to ‘surrender with dignity’. Additionally, time and space can allow the Spirit opportunity to work in the child’s heart. True repentance leading to reconciliation and restoration is more beneficial when the child self-examines to recognize his wrongdoing. When the child concedes, and sin is brought into the light, parents can help the child overcome sinful choices. Be willing to allow the child whatever time is needed for surrender; do not be surprised at the length of time it may take to bring this to completion.
Discovering the motive will guide the next steps. Recognizing the vice that has a hold on your child and agreeing with the child this character trait needs attention is important. Finding ways to elevate the opposing virtue will begin to positively impact the heart of the child. Consequences should be employed that are logical, related, and focused on the motive behind the child’s poor actions. Also, be sure to ask God for wisdom – He gives it freely to those who ask.
Sincere parents want their children to learn from their mistakes and misdeeds. Effective consequences can lead to effective outcomes. Parents who are consistent and diligent to persevere through the process will reap the rewards of a well-balanced child who understands the impact of his behavior.
Nuts are hard to crack, but they can be opened and enjoyed. Crack open effective consequences that will ultimately reveal and affirm precious treasure deep within your child’s heart.
Karen Kurtz is a mom of 4 Babywise/Prep for Parenting babies. All of them slept through the night as prescribed in the Ezzo’s parenting books. As a Contact Mom, Karen enjoys helping other parents train their babies and children. Karen and her husband Don, make their home in NE Ohio and all four babies are now young adults.