L: James, you mentioned accountability. Creating a culture of accountability. What does that mean? Can you explain that and how, what it means to parents and kids.
J: First of all, when we start with accountability, one of the things that I talk to teachers and parents about is creating a culture of accountability. And that culture of accountability occurs between two people. So when we talk about what’s on TV, what they’re learning in the movies, what their video games is, that, that’s fine. But the culture of accountability comes with, this is how I’m gonna talk to you and this is how you have to talk to me. This is what I’m gonna expect of you and this is what you can expect of me. That’s very clearly learned out. That you’re accountable for the way you talk to me and treat me. You’re accountable for your responsibilities and you can expect me to take responsibility to be accountable for my responsibilities. I’m gonna pay the rent, I’m gonna have food on the table, I’m gonna make sure that we have a place to live. You have to talk to me appropriately, you have to do your schoolwork and you have to learn how to solve life’s problems without hurting other people.
MG: I think it’s important to note James that a culture of accountability isn’t just a parent child thing. We even as adults need to be accountable; we are accountable every day to someone.
J: That’s right, well, I don’t think people are accountable to a culture. I think that that develops between people. Between individual people and groups. So even personal relationships and work relationships.
J: Work. I’m accountable to that job. I’m accountable to my role in that business. I’m accountable to that business. They’re gonna pay me, that’s what I expect of them, they expect me to do the role that they defined for me. They also expect me to do it with some quality and some efficiency.
MG: So as a parent, what you’re setting your child up for by expecting him to be accountable to you is the whole mindset that you will always be accountable to someone. This is a coping skill. This is a problem solving skill you have to learn.
J: Absolutely. Look, when you hold your child accountable, when you develop that culture of accountability, you as a parent have a responsibility to teach that child to acquire the skills he’s gonna need to be able to be accountable. People who can’t be accountable for their homework disrespect other people. People who can’t be accountable for their behavior turn it around and challenge you and act out. So when you’re having a culture of accountability, there’s a two–way thing. I expect you to do the right thing and you can expect me to teach you how to do the right thing.
MG: So my job as a parent then is to set specific standards, to set specific goals, to set attainable landmarks that a child can say, if I do this, I become accountable. If I do this, I’m behaving responsibly.
J: Yeah, it’s not only setting goals. It’s giving the skills to reach the goal. So let’s say I’m a parent and my goal is that you’re gonna sink five throws from the free throw line in basketball out of ten. Well I just can’t put you up there with a ball and tell you do it, that’s my goal. I’ve gotta show you how to do it. I’ve gotta show you how you place your feet, how you place your arms. How you propel the ball. I’ve gotta spend some time practicing with you. I’ve gotta show you how to do these things and I’ve gotta practice them. So it’s not setting the goals, it’s giving the kid the skills. Acquiring the skills yourself for an understanding of what it takes. Using the tools and using the skills.
James Lehman had a very personal understanding of kids with behavior problems. He displayed severe oppositional, defiant behaviors as a child and teenager, and became a Behavioral Therapist specializing in helping troubled children, teens and their families for 30 years.
Janet Lehman, MSW Child Behavior Therapist
Janet Lehman has over three decades of clinical experience working with out–of–control children and teens and their parents. Working in group homes and residential treatment centers, Janet helped children with serious behavioral disorders learn to get their behavior under control.
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A consequence is something that follows naturally from a person’s action, inaction or poor decision. It differs from a punishment in that a punishment is retribution. Punishment is “getting back” at someone, to hurt them back for a hurt they did. When you get a speeding ticket, it’s not a retribution for something you did wrong. It’s a consequence of your poor choices and decisions.
When you’re giving a child a consequence, it’s important to make it flow naturally from the child’s choice or action. For example, if your son sleeps late and doesn’t get up for school, the natural consequence is to go to bed earlier that night to get more sleep. The natural consequence isn’t to take his phone for a week. Tell him he has to go to bed early for the next three nights, and then if he can show you he can get up for school, you’ll go back to the later bedtime.
It’s also important to make the consequence task-oriented, not time-oriented. A time-oriented consequence is when you tell your child he’s grounded for a week or can’t use his cell phone for two weeks. It’s ineffective because all it does is teach kids how to “do time.” It does not teach them how to change their behavior.
"Making your daughter stay in for three weekends won’t teach her to observe curfew. It just puts you and your family through grief and the child learns nothing."
A task-oriented consequence is related to the offense and defines a learning objective. If your child stayed out past curfew last week, this weekend, she has to come in an hour earlier to show you that she can do it. When she shows you she can do it, you can go back to her normal curfew time. Making her stay in for three weekends won’t teach her to observe curfew. It just puts you and your family through the grief and the child learns nothing.
The best consequences are those from which the child learns something. If your son is disrespectful to his sister, a good consequence is to tell him he can’t use the phone until he writes her a letter of apology. In the letter, he has to tell her what he’ll do differently the next time he’s in conflict with her. Writing the letter of apology is a learning experience for him that wins him back his phone. That way, he’s not just “doing time.” He’s completing an act that teaches him something.
I think parents have to be very clear about consequences, especially the older kids get. By “older,” I mean the difference between six and eight and then eight and ten. I’m not talking about the difference between eight and eighteen. The older kids get, the more thought they have to put into the consequence. So if a kid’s grade drops because he’s not doing his homework, yes you take his TV. But you take it until the teacher tells you that he’s been doing his homework for two weeks. Or until the teacher tells you he’s brought his grades back up to a B.
We hear from many parents who say, “I’ve tried everything, and consequences just don’t work with my kid.” What can a parent in this situation do? First of all, we need to talk about the kids for whom consequences do work. These are kids who are used to structure and are used to limits being set on them. Having structure and setting limits with kids teaches them that there are rewards and consequences in life. If you’re having trouble making consequences work with your kids, here’s an important point. If you want consequences to work, you also have to have rewards. If you have no rewards, then it’s very hard to come up with a consequence without being punitive.
In The Total Transformation Program, I encourage parents to sit down and think up a list of consequences and a list of rewards for their child. The list should include things they can afford, things that don’t cost a lot of money and things that they can achieve in the time they have in their day as parents. For example, as a reward, can you take your kid down to the park for a half an hour and shoot some baskets. Half an hour is all you need. It doesn’t have to take two hours. You also want to make sure the rewards and consequences on the list are realistic to that child’s developmental level.
I also recommend that parents order the rewards and consequences from mildest to heaviest so that you have small rewards for small achievements, big rewards for big achievements. The same goes for consequences. Smaller consequences that flow out of minor infractions. More serious consequences for more serious offenses. By the way, taking the phone is a major consequence, and I would use that cautiously. It’s usually a major consequence because it is usually a very important item to a kid. The more important an item is to a kid, the more he’ll learn when it’s taken as part of a consequence. But remember that when you’re giving consequences, you don’t want to use all your big guns at once.
Having this menu of rewards and consequences gives you a roadmap for how to deal with the hills, valleys and forks in the road you encounter each day with your child. It also keeps you from taking shortcuts, which we all do in parenting. Parents are tired, they work hard, they have high levels of anxiety over their finances and their professional careers, and they have lots of demands beyond caring for the children. This is true in almost every family. So parents often start taking shortcuts that are ineffective, such as taking the cell phone for every offense or grounding a kid for a week. If you have a menu of rewards and consequences, you can give an appropriate consequence for the offense—one that allows the child to learn. Not a knee-jerk, punitive consequence.
The most important question you need to ask yourself when you’re giving a child a consequence is this: What do I want to accomplish here? Do I want to show him who’s boss or do I want to get him to do his homework? If you want to show him who’s boss, then you’re going to be extra punitive in your consequence and fire all your guns at once. If you want him to get his homework done, then you start with consequences that can lead up to getting homework done. Like no TV until your homework’s done. It’s as simple as pie.
When do you use the “big gun” consequences? When you’re dealing with issues involving values and respect of others. When you’re faced with abuse issues such as physical or verbal abuse of a family member or teacher. Or when you’re dealing with serious issues such as stealing.
Consequences don’t happen in a vacuum. They have to fit in with an overall style of parenting that is designed to produce children who can respond to limits, meet responsibilities and demonstrate age-appropriate behavior. So, if a consequence isn’t working, and a parent says, “I took his phone for two weeks and it’s not working,” that parent needs to look at a couple of things. First of all, maybe two weeks is too long. Maybe what you have to tell your child is this: “I’m taking your phone until you don’t do X for twenty four hours.” Or, “If you talk abusively to your sister, I’m taking your phone until you don’t talk to her abusively for forty eight hours straight. And every time you’re abusive with her, it starts over.” Go back again to the most important question: “What do I want to accomplish?” If you want to hurt him for hurting his sister, take his phone for two weeks. But if you do this, don’t expect any compliance out of him. If what you want to accomplish is having your son learn not to be abusive and work on his self-control, then set up a task as part of the consequence.
Another thing to think about is whether you’re being firm or rigid. There’s nothing wrong with being firm. But if you’re being senselessly rigid, your kids are going to develop defiance to respond to that. That’s the problem with using all the big gun consequences at once.
Sometimes consequences don’t work because they are part of a much broader problem; the child is in a power struggle with the parents. One of the primary ways that kids try to win that power struggle with their parents is by withholding compliance. Once that pattern establishes itself, the only power the parent has is to punish, and the only power the kid has is to refuse to do what they're asked. Consequences will not work in that atmosphere. When this occurs, parents need the more comprehensive solution that The Total Transformation and the Parental Support Line provide. The program and the support will help you with the broader problem-solving skills that enable kids to take responsibility for compliance without being reactionary.
James Lehman, MSW was a renowned child behavioral therapist who worked with struggling teens and children for three decades. He created the Total Transformation Program with his wife Janet Lehman, MSW to help people parent more effectively. James' foremost goal was to help kids and to "empower parents."
This article couldn't have come at a better time!
Comment By : mirizarry5
Great article thank you. I have a 16 year old son and a 13 year daughter old at home. Sometimes if the consequence is to long I am the one ending up suffering from the punishment. I like the idea to sit down and make up the consequences ahead of time.
When your angry and you try to discipline you may use a consequence that is completely unrealistic and is not affectice for the bad behavior.
Comment By : Debbie-werkidz
Thanks for this article...it fit today like a ring to my finger
Comment By : Lipi
We are finally out of this power struggle that held our re"lationships hostage for 3 years. Our son is almost 18 and we are finally learning when to hold the line, albeit respectfully and firmly, and when to say, "this is your decision, son. You choose." We have let go of the need to control and we now have an amazing relationship with him. I only wish we had found you years ago. Your advice is right on.
Keep up the good work. Parents really need you. Have you ever thought about a tv program?
God Bless you!
Comment By : Sherry
Very sensible and saves the child's dignity. I don't want my son to be humiliated. I want him to understand the law of accountability.
Comment By : MotherOf 3
This is a wonderful way to word "the punishment should fit the crime" which we have been trying to use. Today our 12 year old son was disrespectful to our 6 year old daughter, so his consequence was that he had to be her 'servant' until his behavior changed. It was almost instant!
Comment By : pjs
wonderful, helpful and right on. My only regret is that we did not meet or hear of you years ago. You are amazing at telling it like it REALLY is. Thank you so much and keep up the good work.
Comment By : jon
I found this article very helpful and it came at just the right time. I got my 16 year olds progress report today.
Comment By : TK
I am the mother of two daughters. Both girls were evaluated with IQ's of about 145, but the two could scarcely have been more different. I am now 71 and the daughters are 45 and 42. The elder one was determined to have her own way no matter what, repeat, NO MATTER WHAT! She would not cooperate no matter what I tried to do and I had a minor in child development/child psychology as part of a Home Economics major at UCLA. The younger one, by contrast, was fairly easy to deal with and responded well to affection and encouragement. The older girl has five children, aged from 26 down to 11, and she began using the "time out" method with her eldest. But she has developed it to the level of tyranny over her children in order to control their every move. The first four have all managed to leave home (the eldest she "gave" to us when he was seven!), numbers 2, 3,and 4 in their teens. My point in all this sad epic is that there are, indeed, some children who WILL NOT cooperate, no matter what. What answer do you offer for that situation?
Comment By : Katharine
wow! this article seems to be talking about very well behaved kids. so what do you do with this kid. you and your company are sitting outside and your child starts throwing rocks at the house. you tell him to stop, or he'll be sent to his room for 15 minutes. his response is to throw 3 more rocks at the house. (very embarassing for you and your company.) the end result is that you have to drag him kicking and screaming back into the house to get him to his room, and low and behold, in less than 10 minutes he's back outside doing what? throwing rocks at the house, again! so again, your article is for extremely well behaved kids. so how do you deal with the kids for wich "consequences" have absolutely no effect?
Comment By : jsn
I am a single mom with 2 teenage daughters, and also an avid equestrian. When my 16 yr old daughter was getting verbally & physically abusive with me and her sister several months ago , I immediately stated the #1 rule in my house of No Excuse for Abuse. I then proceeded to ask her to give up her cell phone until she could act respectfully in our house for 5 days in a row. She refused and started getting violent. I then pulled her aside and told her (calmly and non emotionally) that all-by-myself, I could load a reluctant, refusing 1200lb horse into a horse trailer without violence or help from anyone. So she should have no doubt that I could certainly get a cell phone away from her. She knew she was 'had' at that point, and dropped the phone into my hand and grudgeingly accepted her 5 day no-phone consequence. From there one out, her behavior has changed dramatically. She knows when she has crossed the line and backs down and has learned to control her temper. I have several other success stories with her too, including escalation through the schools and police. She is now getting straight A's and purchased her own car. What a relief!!
Comment By : Lynne B.
I am grateful for the article you provided. It doesn't sound like rocket science when you read it. However, it reinforces what our instincts tell us: "tough love". When you are in a situation where your ten year old daughter talks to you in a verbally abusive manner, I can see where a list of consequences on hand could really be helpful! Thanks again. I am going to be ready next time.
Comment By : Cindy K
I have a 16 year old son who, is taller and bigger than me and his father, this kid refuse to do anythings we ask. A couple of weeks ago he declaired his manhood by physically attaching my husband/his father, bed time, nightly phone time usage, and chore are ignored. School is a joke to this kid, fights, and disrepect to teaches is becoming common place..............This kid use to be nice and respectful. We feel lost and alone, we don't know what to do anymore.
Comment By : monalisa665
* ***From the editor of Empowering Parents: Thank you to all of our readers who have added comments to our "Consequences" article--we can see that this topic really resonated with a lot of you. Like Monalisa 665, many parents have written in to say that their teen's behavior is more "hardcore" and unmanageable than the kids mentioned in the article, and that the tactics outlined here might not be suitable for their kids. We hear you, and we will respond by writing an article on the topic of out-of-control teenage behavior-- and how to give consequences to teens-- in an upcoming issue. Please feel free to add your comments or get in touch with me by email if you have a concern you'd like to share on this subject, or any other. We're here to help. Thank you!
Comment By : Elisabeth Wilkins Editor, Empowering Parents
PERFECT TIMING and The "Consequences vs. Punishment/Retribution" made so much sense. My 13 year old son responded immeadiately! Thanks so much!MB
Comment By : Mary
The articles seem very good but would not work in my case; 12 year old grandson. I am now looking for a home to send him to.
Comment By : M'Dear
This is a great article and I can now better appreciate the consequence vs. punishment issue. I have 2 children (8 and 5) and sometimes have difficulty finding reasonable consequences for some forms of misbehavior (namely, disrespectful behavior towards parents and siblings). What kind of consequences do you give to an 8 year old who doesn't have a cell phone or spend much time on the computer? She loves to draw so do I take away those privileges when she speaks to us disrespectfully?
Comment By : ShellJ
* To ShellJ: Thank you for your question. I think one of the most frequent things I discuss with parents on the Parental Support Line is the technique of ignoring attitude and focusing on behavior. It's so difficult because your own emotions are involved and the attitude is usually directed at you. What needs to change here is your child’s management of their emotional outbursts. Look at it as a skill your child needs to get better at. If you find that the attitude is getting out of hand and becoming abusive, you should remark, “It’s not okay to speak to me that way.” Depending on the situation, you may also need to coach your child to take a break and calm down until he or she can speak appropriately. During that break they can be grounded from certain activities, such as TV in the main part of the house. In the case of attitude and siblings, I would encourage you to hold all siblings responsible for not getting along with each other. I would only use consequences if the child absolutely refuses to try and calm down. Consequences can be loss of some T.V. time during that same day, for example. I would not target the one activity that your child loves as a consequence. That will feel like punishment to the child and is not effective in teaching your child to stay focused on the behavior you want changed. Stick with it and your child will begin to understand that there is no point in trying to use attitude against you.
Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor
Thank you for having this article available to us. Since I moved 6 months ago, I can't find where I packed my Total Transformation Package!!! I never got started on it and really need it and now can't find it...you'd think it's big enough, it wouldn't get missplaced, but I must have put it in one of the misc boxes still in the storage place...AAHHHH. Thanks again, this really helps right now.
Comment By : Flippy
My oldest son is 11 and totally out of control. He's not passing grade 6, he's unmotivated, disrespectful of EVERYONE, and seems so defient that most days I just do'nt know what to do with him. He just got himself suspended again and honestly my husband and I just lost it. We have taken everything out of his room except he bed and dresser, anything fun is gone. I think that this article is amazing. It showed me that sometimes as parents when we deal with problems in the heat of the moment we total overstep when is nesecary. In the end it probably would have done just to take away tv, give an earlier bedtime, and make him write a letter to the teacher stating what he did, why he did it and what he should have done instead.
Thank you so much for this article it has really made me see the light.
Comment By : Worried Mom
this article is perfect for me at this time. we have a 14 year old son that we are trying to teach to be responsible for his actions and accept his part of the mistakes he makes. I am going to work on a consequence and reward list to have on hand for "emergencies"
Comment By : bizzyb
Thanks for this reminder about the big guns & rewards, my 9 1/2 year old daughter's consequence list is very limited: loss of TV time on the weekend ... I started out taking a full day for each poor choice and she had lost a "month of Sundays" so to speak in less than 24 hours YIKES ... now we do it by the hour with my big gun being loss of morning, midday or night time! Rewards were earning back the hours when caught making good choices but the hour bank was too hard to balance and created more "back talk"... after reading this article I'm going to try rewarding her with computer time during the week ... it's more immediate and potentially acheiveable THANKS A MILLION for helping ME to problem solve!
Comment By : Brandismom
Great timeing!!! I have 4 childern (4,6,8&9) and thought i had tried "everything". This may actually work! I have always hated punishing my children, and in the heat of the moment, almost always give unrealistic lengthy punishment, and in the end we are both/all left with hurt feelings! This will go a long way! Thanks!!
Comment By : misscoop26
I think this article is great. It makes you sit down and customize disciplinary action for your specific child instead of using a generalized form of treatment because what we all seem to have in common is that generalized form of discipline (ie grounding, taking majority of things away for a lengthy period of time) has not worked. I really like the idea of "consequences" and tweaking them to teach your child how to behave properly, control their temper, and make good decisions. I use to feel that giving children certain choices would diminish my authority as a parent. Now I know that it's all about how you approach the situation. Thank you!
Comment By : The Jenkins Tribe
How do I keep the TV turned off? When I say, "No TV until homework is done," she finds another remote and turns it on and will not hand over the remote, or if I say, "no telephone tonight until homework is done." She will not give me her cell phone.
Comment By : troubles
* Dear "Troubles"--Try to avoid a power struggle with your child--ie, don't try to make her do what you want right then and there. Give your daughter the choice to comply, and if she does not, give her a consequence. You might say something like, “You know you are not to be watching TV until your homework is done. If you don’t turn it off, there will be a consequence, but let’s not go there.” Now do what James Lehman recommends and leave her alone with that thought. If she chooses to continue watching, later on that evening you should tell her what you have decided will be the consequence for her choice. Remember James’ recommendation to keep the consequences time-limited, and as related to the behavior as possible. (You might tell her there will be no TV at all tomorrow, for example.)
Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor
JSN - I can totally relate! that article could have been written word for word by me. I am beside myself, it's embarrassing & frustrating & my son is only 9 1/2. i fear the teen years.
Comment By : cindy3539
those wonderful little well behavied children that turn into those frightening teens. i have a 13 boy, who is pushing the boundries and this weekend he's in for a life style change. no more mohawk, no more baggy jeans hanging below the butt. no more negative attention is what i'm looking for. the socializing between these teens at school is getting my son side tracked. his grades have dropped from high B's to low C's....not acceptable!!! as Dr. Lehman had said, kids have one job in growing up and that's to attend school and learn to their best protenal!!!! we've spoke about the changes with our son before it happens. he seems to understand and hasn't said to much except that he's not giving up an oversized hoodie that he paid for. i did buy the clothes that he is wearing but before they were purchased we taked about what i expected as a compermise. he's not living up to his end so we think a style change is needed. hopefully i won't hsve to go as far as changing the friends or his school.
Comment By : style change
I'll be looking forward to learning about dealing with teens who refuse to comply. The power struggle (with our formerly compliant child) has added a lot of stress to the household. What do we do when they realize you can't actually MAKE them do anything?
Comment By : Valerie
I have three children 8,3, and 17 months. My oldest has ADHD, ODD, and depression. My middle is a bully and the youngest is starting to do what the older two are doing. I am trying to restructure our household rules, chores, etc. One of the issues I am having is with my 3 year old, he does not really care if he is punished, put in time out or items taken away. How do you get them to understand that you need to listen to mom and dad and its not ok to punch your younger brother or sister? I've had these problems with the older one but they have improved alot in the last few years, not totally gone but much better. I am afraid that my youngest is going to just like the other two (sometimes totally out of control).
Comment By : mandy
Informative and timely article. Is there a follow-up that would address preteen and teen lying, and what appropriate disciplinary procedures to take?
Comment By : Amy A.
* Dear Amy: Please see James Lehman's article on Why Kids Tell Lies and What to Do about It. Hope this is helpful to you!
Comment By : Elisabeth Wilkins, Editor
Excellent advice! I try to give consequences that are appropriate, but, sometimes, in the heat of the moment I end up punishing instead and later regretting it. I will start on my list. I would also like to see an article that would help deal with the teen that figures out that we can't actually MAKE them do something.
Comment By : Frustrated
I recently defended a suspension issue my son got that I felt was
wrong by the way he was approached by a assist. principal...There was a "overlooked" reaction on the assist.principal's part and my son got
defiant in the interum and rightfully so.....I believe there should be various counselors for problems/issues instead of cop-out dismissals/suspensions used as a method of punishment...In this case
my son did absolutely nothing wrong but since his reaction "under his breath" profanity, got him suspended by the assist. principal saying
he was mischievious, disruptive, disrespectful to an adult/teacher...
He was merely frustrated and reacted, not directed anything at a teacher......I said to the Principal that this did not warrant a suspension....all teens "vent" as I put it...They need counselors if
teens can't talk to parents at home.....and on other issues and take
more time as individuals with them.....
Comment By : ety
My daughter will be 20 this month, with a 5 mo old baby living with us. She works pt and goes to college pt. It's been a real struggle with her during her teen years - very verball/physically abusive. Now, with the baby she seems to be turning into a good, loving mother. The issue now is her abusive treatment towards her father. She's very hateful and abusive to him, he tries to steer clear of her and then accuses me of not standing up to her - her car is in our name and he pays her insurance. I don't want to cause too many waves - but I do tell her it's unacceptable to treat him like that - How should I handle her? (he can be very hot-headed too).
Comment By : deb
Your article helped me see consequences in a new light. When my middle school-age foster son was recently caught cheating in school, I restricted his access to video games rated "Teen" until he demonstrated he was mature enough to handle them (we made a list of age-appropriate behaviors that would demonstrate this). Instant huge change! And a lasting one. Now, all I have to say is "That behavior doesn't meet the "mature" criteria" and he quickly corrects himself.
Comment By : msmpatty
This is excellent advice that our culture would do well to follow, not just the kids.
Comment By : Chris
how do I get my son to treat his younger sister with respect? He is always pushing her to the point where she is screaming almost in terrior and insists that he has done nothing to her. I need a way for him to see that his behavior toward her can be mirrored by her toward him......
Comment By : mom of two
I agree to try and fit the consequence to the crime, however sometimes I draw a blank when my 2 adopted 10 yr. olds harrass me. When this happens I have to 'relax' in my recliner and the culprit owes me a hassle time chore, usually something I was doing. This chore has to be done before 'their' life can continue.
Comment By : 5kit
I'm in the same situation like monalisa66 just that my son is 15 years old and his father and I are divorced. He is with his father at the moment, he attached his Dad, he does not want to accept any rules or responsibilities.
Comment By : Mom3+1
I can't wait for the article on out-of-control teen behavior. This article was helpful, but we are dealing with such deep issues with our adopted 19 year old daughter. My husband and I are afraid we are losing hope for her and her future. This program is helping us keep our sanity though, as we feel we are doing our best for her benefit.
Comment By : Margie
The control issue is really key in dealing with consequences. This aticle makes a parent think twice about what they do. The idea of a "menue of rewards and consquences" is a great tool. It's what good teachers do all the time to keep kids in class and out of the principals office. Good stuff!
Comment By : jg
I used to give my daughter time punishments and that never worked. The time she put in was never a bother to her. Now that she is 16 we give her tasks to do, just like in this article. The change is like a miracle. I still struggle at times for an appropriate task, but when I don't have a list it happens. I am working on a list to post in the kitchen. This will remind both of us of the consequences for inapropriate action.
Comment By : ja
Would like to see more on consequences for younger children. I have a 5 year old that has had some behavioral problems while in day care and about to start kindergarden, what are age appropriate consequences for 5 year olds?
Comment By : YG
Great article. Makes total sense. We all need a road map. I have a question: Should parents or teenagers make the decision on which high school to attend? My daughter wants to switch to a public school because, as she says: it's easier, teachers don't care, the people. I'm concerned these are the wrong reasons. Even though she was voted "princess" last year, she now perceives that she can't connect with the students, the teachers don't care and that she is failing (she ended with a 2.2 -- not great but not failing). I gave alot of thought to public school and let her "shadow" her friend. I recently heard that she cut a class when she tried the public school with her friend. Seems like a no-brainer if we can afford the private school, but she is strong-willed and feels very strongly about this issue. I empathize (some of the problem) but now she has threatened to do things to get out of the private school, potentially making this a power issue. I have to prepare for CONSEQUENCES of our decision and for her behavior. I wonder whether we've made the right decision on schools. I am open to the public school WITH CONDITIONS (GPA, team sport, etc) but my husband feels private school is the best choice for her. While I've been ambivalent, she believes my husband and I are on the same page -- the private school. How can we avoid a power struggle? Is high school a decision for a teenager?
Comment By : sph
* Dear SPH -
When there is an opportunity to chose between private and public schools, parents and teens can work out a decision together. Of course, if you and your husband do not agree on whether your child should have the option of changing schools, conversations with your daughter should be put on hold until you can find some common ground together. Let your daughter know that you and your husband need to discuss the situation before you will speak to her about her options. If she argues, tell her that you are not willing to discuss the possibility of changing schools if she continues to argue, and then walk away from her.
If you and your husband agree to consider public school, encourage your daughter to come up with a proposal listing specific things she does not like about private school, and how changing to public school might make things different. I agree that your daughter's current reasons for choosing public school might not be appropriate. It's not clear from your email what she means by "the teachers don't care, the people." In order to consider public school, she'll need to really think about what she needs, and how she will help herself get those things in a new school.
The fact that your daughter skipped a class when she was given the opportunity to experience public school might be a sign that her school behavior issues will follow her no matter which school she attends. You mentioned having conditions for her staying in the public school. If she does change schools, you and your husband will need to come up with a plan for your child's school behavior and performance. You could make adherence to those rules a requirement for public school attendance - meaning, consider public school an experiment. If she can't keep up, she goes back to private school. You will need to make this very clear to your daughter before she makes her decision whether to change schools or not.
If you and your husband cannot agree, or you remain unsure about your choices, another approach might be to let your daughter know you are willing to consider moving her to public school only after she has shown you that she can attend classes and improve her grades in the first semester of the coming school year. If she complains, argues, or cuts classes, the option for moving to public school is off the table. She can earn a move to public school for either the Spring semester or the following school year by adhering to certain rules. Again, be sure to be very clear about the rules with your daughter, and be sure to have a plan in place to help her meet her goals.
Comment By : Megan Devine, Parental Support Line Advisor
I have a 17 year oldteenager who is acceptable when he is not with his friends, who are all dropouts and/or unemployed. He ignores curfew and comes home intoxicated. If I ground him, he goes out anyway. He refuses to make new friends and is defensive of them. I fear for his safety. Please give me some ideas as to what consequences I can give him. Do you think I should move?
Comment By : Teen Mom fron Hollywood FL
We are fighting with an 18 year old son. Everything is great until we ask something that does not fit into his schedule. He ends up doing what we ask but not without a lot of screaming and swearing and sometimes a punch to the door. He is about to leave for College and while he continues to say he wants to go, besides the usual clothes shopping he really does not seem to care about doing anything else to get ready. Are we too late? I feel as if I have sent him out into the world angry and without the proper tools. What can we do?
Comment By : CTMOM
* For Teen Mom from Hollywood FL and CTMOM: I'd like to recommend a series of articles called Rules, Boundaries and Older Children by James Lehman. In it, he addresses some ways you can deal with inappropriate behavior in older kids. You also might want to read There’s No Excuse for Abuse: When Kids Get Violent. We're also planning to feature more articles on older kids and consequences in the near future, so please keep checking your inbox!
Comment By : Elisabeth Wilkins, Editor
My daughter is 5, about to turn 6 soon. She is mean to her brother by taking toys away from him. He is almost 2. She isn't minding. She is hard headed, yells at us, her grandparents also. She yells at her older sister who is 14 and demands her to do things with her. She throws fits if she doesn't get her way. I recently sat her down with all of us as a family. It had a positive outcome. The next day she was smart with me. She also told me how a girl in her kindergarden punched her in the stomache. Later she told me she made it all up. I don't know what's going on. I guess I need to talk to the teacher. I don't understand why she is acting this way. Sometimes I talk to her and get her to turn around. She is very emotional about things. I'm worried about her. She's doing well on behavior in kindergarden. She's motivated, but sometimes will fight me about helping her before she even gets started. I love her so much. I get very frustrated and embarrased by her behavior disrespecting my parents or my inlaws. My husband and I decided we will take her out of any situation when she gets angry and goes off no matter where or when and calmy have a talk with her and have her apologize afterwards. Stop it as soon as it starts so we don't get so heated up and not handle it right. What kind of advice can you give me for her?
Comment By : Tammy
This was a great article as it helped with our approach to our son's behavior issue in school. The consequesnces for his obeying the school and class rules are that he gets to do the things he likes at home. If he does not make good decisions at school he has to explain his actions to us as soon as he gets home from school and then write an apology note to his teacher and has resctrictions based on his actions in school. Since we have implemented this process there are no more issues at school!!
Comment By : GCP
I'm in the same boat that Tammy describes. My daughter is also 6 and has morphed from the sweetest little girl you could ever know into an indescribably nasty, manipulative, spoiled brat in less than 3 years (since her little sister was born!). At first the defiance, aggression, back-talking, etc. was only toward me, but now everyone in the household and a few other close family members also are targets. Her teachers think she is wonderful, so at least the behavior hasn't started at school. I fear that it will if something doesn't change soon. We've seen two different counselors - no help at all. I find myself in screaming fights with her and I'm just sick about it. I cannot tell you how much I love my children and I fear I am destroying them! I've just found Mr. Lehman's program and hope to find some help there. I cannot imagine dealing with her as a teenager.
Comment By : PKP
Nothing seems to work for me and my two girls... All they do is runaway when I try to put my foot down. This last time my daughter ran away after a week she called wanting to come home I told her no and to call her dad, we have been divorced for 4yrs and he has not been a part of either of my girls lives. I was shocked when he took her in but now I am the bad parent. What makes me so upset is that I have been there for both my girls and all the mess I have gone through for them, we have been to court, probation, police calling me in the middle of the night telling me they have my daughter and my vehicle,my youngest daughter running away for weeks at a time and acting like nothing ever happened, boys sneaking in the house in the middle of the night and alternative schools and I am the only parent who has been there for them. Now, my girls treat me with no respect, they don't seem to care what I think and I am nothing to them. I just don't know where to turn to. How am I to set rules and boundries when my girls just run away? I have gotten to the point of just given up all my parental rights to their dad who has not been apart of their lives but am I just cheating myself of the easy way out of being a parent? Will my girls ever realize that I do care and love them?
Comment By : janie
Over the thanksgiving weekend my daughter had a differences and this time i believe she took it alittle to far. i asked her not to stay on the computer to late and it was already 11pm, she started mouthing off to me and i decided to take the internet away from her..she jumped me from behind started hitting me then took my laptop and smashed it on the gound then i left the apt because i felt unsafe and i went to my friends house. When i came back she locked me out of my apt and i had to sleep at my friends house. now what? when is it enough? thanksgiving day i didn't get in my house until 12 the next day and my friend had to plend with her to even get in the place that i pay for. what kind of Consequences work with something like this?
Comment By : whatthehell
* Dear wth: Sounds like it has been a very challenging few days in your family. I am glad you were able to get to a safe place. Before you focus on consequences, you might consider going over some very clear ground rules around safety and violence in your home. You haven't mentioned how old your daughter is, but aggressive and violent behavior is unacceptable no matter your child's age. Check out your local resources before talking with your daughter - call your local police department, for example, and find out how they respond to situations like you experienced. They may have other suggestions for resources in your area, such as Family Crisis services. Once you know where you can go for help should the situation escalate again, sit down with your daughter. As calmly as you can, let her know there is no excuse for abuse or violent behavior in your home. Let her know that if she chooses to act aggressively, you will call the police for assistance (or your local crisis unit). If she chooses to lock you out of your home, let her know that the police will be called, and that there will be consequences for that behavior. You don't need to name the consequences when you have this discussion - what is important is that you are very clear with the rules and expectations around violence in your home, and that your daughter understands what will happen should you feel unsafe.
As for the damage to your computer, you may choose to let your daughter know that she will need to pay to repair or replace your property. This can be achieved by having her do extra chores, or contribute some of her paycheck if she is working. Don't remove all her privileges until the whole balance is paid off, or try and get her to pay it off all at once. Instead, let her know that she can earn a small privilege each day AFTER she has completed that extra work. That way, if she does not complete her work one day, she has a chance to start over the next day.
Address the safety issues in your family first. Once those are clear, you might help your daughter focus on ways she can calm herself down when she is angry at you. Attaching rewards and privileges to her actions will help her to learn better skills for managing her frustrations. You might check out Why Don't Consequences Work for My Teen for ideas on consequences, and also check out When Kids Get Violent for more help in dealing with issues of violence and aggression. Remember, as James Lehman says, there is no excuse for abuse. Good luck, and let us know how it works out.
Comment By : Megan Devine, Parental Support Advisor
These articles are absolutely amazing. I stumbled onto this website yesterday and have already put the responsibility-accountability-consequence system into place and feel so much stronger. Got a stressed out 13 year old with "an ear ache" out of bed and off to school on time. How? Staying home is not an option. You have to go to school, it's your responsibility. And if today you come home tonight (Friday) without being late or having any notes from your teachers, then you've met all your responsibilities this week, so I'll get Chinese take-out (reward) and you can have your cell phone and play on the computer all evening.
He left happy and smiling and willing to go. It's like finally understanding how to get around the fuss and the muss of bargaining, negotiating, bribing, chastising, punishing, pleading, anger, resentment. Well, it is only day 2, but I'm quite optimistic!
My only complaint is that, living outside of North America, I can't order Total Transformation. Too bad it is not available as a downloadable program - I would have bought it yesterday!
Comment By : Still learning
As a follow-up to my last comment, this weekend was a real eye opener for me and my spouse. Friday was just great, including when my husband got home and immediately got into a conflict with my son (he can be a bit pushy and there is a lot of conflict there). Then my son did something I've never seen him do. He came downstaires to sit and express himself clearly to his Dad. Like a... man. Calmly and clearly said what he needed and why the conflict began, and simply explained that he needed his Dad to not go into "how did you perform at school" thing right as he walked in the door at 10pm. His Dad totally understood and said he was proud that he came down to talk like that. Wow.
On Saturday, I decided that from 12 to 2, both kids need two hours of "taking care of business" time. That is time to do homework, clean their rooms, or read a BOOK if there's nothing else to be done. Time with no electronics, no friends, no distractions.
That was met with enormous resistance by my son. He spent the first hour trying to resist it and re-negotiate it, following me around at times, trying to pit me and my husband against one another, refusing the work.
Thank you, James Lehman, because my response was "You need to work for 2 hours, it's your responsibility. When you start working, I start counting. I take your phone until it's done. When you've finished, you get your phone, you can watch tv, play video games, internet, you won't be in trouble... Take care of your responsibilities and you will be free.
With the back and forth of resistance (including unconvincing "I hate you's", and pencil throwing and snapping, and other distractions meant to derail the program), he didn't finish until 3:45. Dad was going to intervene (with great anger and wrath), but I managed to explain what I was doing and he decided to trust me (his English isn't good enough for me to share these articles with him).
But when our son did finish, I swear he was happy, he seemed relieved, maybe proud of himself even. He got his phone and his freedom and had a friend over and had a great weekend.
What I am seeing is that he doesn't need to be made to "see the light", or agree with our ideas, or be babied and coddled or threatened and bullied. I am beginning to believe that creating this culture of accountability in our household, with structure and even-handed firmness (no more emotional roller-coaster rides) may be the way towards helping our children become the adults we've been trying to "make" them to become.
Lehamn's ideas are nothing new, maybe he didn't even invent anything. He just found a brilliant way of outlining effective time-tried principles and re-infusing parents with sound advice on how to help children become the best adults they can be, and he adapted it to today's world. And lord knows, we needed it!!!!
Comment By : still learning
I have two boys, ages 7 and 9. for various reasons, we don't have screen time during the week in our home, so on the weekends (and I only have them every other weekend) I don't like to use the screen time as a consequence, though I have. I would be so grateful if other people could share what they use for consequences besides cell phone, tv, computer time, video games? When they fight we use the bickering table and when one is overly rude or disrespectful, he has to do a chore for the other. I am mostly struggling with my older son having angry outbursts at me when i say no to something.
Comment By : ready!
Do you have a list of ideas for the menu of rewards and consequences. I like the half hour of bball or something of that sort, but I wanted to know if you have a list of several ideas.
Comment By : Marie
* Dear Marie:
There is a list of age appropriate consequences and rewards on pages 73 and 74 in the workbook that accompanies the Total Transformation Program as well as some guidelines for particular age groups. James Lehman wrote that kids between the ages of 5-9 are interested in time with parents or other adults, and are beginning to establish some independent relationships with peers. They often need adult support developing these peer relationships. Time frames for both consequences and rewards should be relatively short, as children this age are not generally able to work toward long-term goals. Kids ages 10-14 are just beginning to struggle with their sense of themselves. They’re practicing independence but still need a great deal of parental supervision and support. Connections to peers are becoming of primary importance in their lives. Their judgment can be poor around older teens who are offering choices and activities. Again, time frames for this age group need to be limited for consequences and rewards. Kids at this age may be able to understand longer term goals but have little tolerance or ability to work toward them. The 15-17 year old adolescent should be working toward gaining independence from their parent. Their interests center on their peers and young adult activities where they are trying new things and building new skills. While there are not a large number of motivators for this age group, there are some that are significant, not the least of which is the car. Teens are somewhat better at working toward longer term goals, but do need a time limit both for rewards and consequences.
Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor
Makes a lot of sense.
Comment By : momtalk
very good, a lot of good advice.
Comment By : Mary Lou
WOW. I've read a lot of articles, but this is truly some of the best advice that hits very close to home. We have been making some of the exact same mistakes listed here! Thank you for giving us a new way to look at things.
Comment By : Jen W
Thank you for the great articles. Very helpful! I, like other people commenting, have had trouble taking away use of electronics like cell and internet. I recently figured out with my cell phone provider and my wireless router how to take away and give back the connection without having to physically take or hide the device from my daughter. This has helped me follow through with the consequences without getting into yet another battle with my daughter.
Comment By : Mon66
EmpoweringParents Staff: you have a gift - thank you for sharing it!
Comment By : Appreciative
A very good article for parents like me who is trying to get a 7yr old to be respectful.Sonny and I have written down the consequences of back talk and disrespectful behaviour.But when he gets angry he forgets everything.He is just angry and nothing will calm him down.I take away a car after reminding him to calm down or else face the consequence.He says ahh who cares...after 5 mnts he is sobbing and eventually apologizes.I am confused.I have no clue as to how to deal with him.After he says sorry(which am not very sure he means) he says please give me my car back.But if I give it back he may just get erupt for something else after an hour...I don't know...he knows we love him and care for him but when he is angry he just blows up.He is a very good kid at school and does well at studies.Very friendly and all teachers like him.Could you please help me decide whats going wrong with our parenting.I feel there must be some underlying worry that makes him feel angry at us.He gets aggressive at times,hitting us both and little brother.His father is usually travelling which leaves us 3 to ourselves almost always.That could be a factor..Please reply.Thankyou so much.
Comment By : engee
* Dear ‘engee’: It sounds like you are feeling a bit lost and confused right now. James Lehman felt that children act out as a result of a lack of effective problem solving skills. Emotions are problems to be solved and many young children have difficulty coping with emotions like anger, jealousy, sadness, and frustration. Consequences are helpful- they hold children accountable for their behavior- but they are not enough on their own. It is very important to also work on training your child to help him develop new skills. You might want to check out James’ article Do You Feel Like Your Child's Behavior is Your Fault? In this article he talks about ineffective and effective parenting roles. Thank you for sharing with us. We wish you and your family the best.
Comment By : Sara A. Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor
My two sons have recently moved in with my boyfriend and son. My six year old is autistic and my sixteen year old is ADD. The 16 year old has been abused physically by his father. My boyfriends mother abandoned him to use crack when he was 5. He see's her from time to time. We are having major issues getting along. My boyfriends son acts two ways...either has a blast with me and my kids or totally ignors my requests to do things such as get out of bed for school. Boyfriend is out of town alot. He keeps telling his father he is miserable. But mostly i dont see miserable. I see him laughing and playing with my kids. Boyfriends kid is having problems in school. Meeting this friday with special ed teacher. He is always in trouble at school for not doing what teacher asks of him. My boyfriend is in denial. I believe it is his fault because he feels guilty when he disciplines his child because he doesnt have a mommy. So for the last 4 years the kids has gotten whatever he wanted when he wanted. Issues like going to bed and transition issues have gotten a little better since we got here because i have rules. But i believe he is manipulating his father and trying to come between us. Please help.
Comment By : ulga
* To Ulga: It can be so challenging when you and your co-parent are not on the same page. It’s even harder to support your co-parent when you disagree with their choices or feel that they are not able or willing to see the situation from your perspective. James Lehman suggests that in blended family situations such as yours, the biological parent should take the leading role in establishing rules and limits with their child and deciding how to handle unmet expectations. James suggests that it’s most effective for the non-biological co-parent to take on a more supportive role in caring for and parenting the child, deferring to the biological parent to make the final decision. I realize this is most definitely easier said than done. I am including the links to James’ articles on blended families for more information and ideas. We wish you luck as you continue to work through this. “My Blended Family Won’t Blend—Help!” Part I: How You and Your Spouse Can Get on the Same Page “My Blended Family Won’t Blend!” Part II: What to Do When Your Stepkids Disrespect You
Comment By : Sara A. Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor
Hey i am a single mom of a 12 year old daughter who just will not stop stealing money from me and lieing about everything she does. I don't know what more to do with her. I have tried the grounding thing,taking away, nothing works with her. Yes she does have ADHD and ODD but i dont allow her or anyone else to blame that i tell her everyone has and makes there own chooses in life and she isn't making wise chooses. Please someone help me
Comment By : singlemom
* To ‘singlemom’: It sounds like you are feeling pretty frustrated by your daughter’s stealing and lying. It can be exasperating when you feel like your consequences aren’t working. Instead of focusing on consequences (because there isn’t a magic one that will stop her) we recommend that you focus on helping your daughter learn the skills she needs not to lie and steal. For example, next time she steals, talk after things are calm and ask her what she was thinking before she took the money from your wallet. Reiterate your rules about stealing and taking things from your wallet and then talk about what she will do differently next time she starts thinking this way. If you don’t help your daughter come up with a plan, the behavior will only continue. You will need to continue to have this problem-solving discussion each time she steals because she will need that repetition in order to learn. Restrict your daughter’s electronics until she has the conversation with you, writes a summary of it, and makes an amends—either returning the money or doing some simple, age-appropriate chores to cover the cost. We wish you luck as you continue to work through this. Here are some other articles that will be helpful to you: Kids Stealing from Parents: What You Need to Know Now Why is My Child Stealing and What Can I Do? Why Kids Tell Lies And What To Do About It
Comment By : Sara A. Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor
WOW! I've read a lot of articles, but this is truly some of the best thing that hits very close to home. We have been making some of the exact same mistakes listed here! Thank you so much for sharing this information with us..
Comment By : Veterinary technician
My husband and I used one of the task-oriented consequences tonight after learning that our 9-year old daughter got in trouble at school for aggressive behavior towards a classmate. We responded calmly - only after taking a lot of time to think about what our response would be. She had to write a letter of apology to her friend who she hurt, describing what it means to be a true friend and how she will behave differently to him. We often use the "big guns" approach and react with meaningless consequences, such as taking away her iTouch for what we now understand to be much to long of a duration. Like I said, it was meaningless. Don't get me wrong, there were the typical tears, stomping, blaming others and claims of how "unfair" it is about the incident tonight. But after approaching it calmly, sticking to our letter writing consequence, the entire episode seems to be behind us. Thank you!!
Comment By : Leslie
I have a 14 year old son who is increasingly defiant. He refuses to do his school work and pay attention in school. He does what he pleases when he pleases. He recently got a letter home from school for being late for class to many times and phone calls and emails from teachers for not doing his assignments. I wanted his phone for a week and he refused to give it to me. So I took it from him. Should I be taking it away longer because of his refusal to give it to me? Also I am concerned about how angry he seems at the world all the time and don't know how to help him deal with the anger.
Comment By : dazed and confused
Hi, I need help my daughter of 15 years old was caught stealing at a dollars tore and a. Retail store the same day. She has never done this before, the worse she don't seem to regret. I'm a single parent I try to offer he everything she needs and attention she never wants to do anything with me. I did not know and still not sure what to do . I removed her iPod, cell, computer, wii. I really don't know. Please help
Comment By : Worried mom
* To 'Worried mom': It can be so scary to see your child make choices like this, especially when she appears to not regret her choice to steal. We recommend having a discussion with your daughter which addresses these three questions: What was going on when she made the decision to steal? Why is stealing wrong? What is she going to do differently next time a similar situation comes up? After having this conversation, have her write this up in a short essay. This might be what she needs to do in order to earn back some of the privileges that you have restricted. In terms of additional consequences, your daughter may have to face legal consequences for stealing from these stores. We realize that letting her experience the legal penalties can be a scary prospect; however, it is a natural consequence of her actions, and sometimes those natural consequences can be the best teachers. I am including a link to an article I think you might find helpful: Why is My Child Stealing and What Can I Do? Advice for Parents on Kids, Stealing and Shoplifting. Good luck to you and your daughter as you continue to work through this.
Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor
l have an out of control thirteen year old son.l have had to take drastic measures because of hes physical violence towards me.l placed him on a two months interim order the two main conditions were that he couldnt assult me and or damage property.Sady he did both after the order was made l had him charged and at present the Dep of Human Services have stepped in and l placed him on a voluntary placement to reside with carers.The idea behind this is so he can have time to think about hes behaviors to want to make changes as in accept support to manage hes anger.At the end of the day my heart breaks but l was left with no other option.He has been placed for two weeks and l saw him today still defiant as ever but hes now in a position where he has to take control and want to change for the better.lts tough love but he has so many great things about him and so much to offer to others .l just want him to learn to communicate and stop lashing out at the ones that love and care for him.
Comment By : kathy
Thank you. This article helped a great deal.
Comment By : Momma
Thanks Rebecca, I really appreciate your help and will follow up with your advice . Thanks. Worried mom
Comment By : Worried mom
Thankyou for your article, hopefully we can find a consequence to fit the crime! That being said I have an 8 year old son who was physically violent towards a girl at school yesterday and this is his second offence in two weeks, he will get suspension if it happens again! Last week we stopped gaming privledges and playdates for a week but obviously haven't gotten through to him! What do you think is an appropriate consequence for this behaviour? (We have thought taking his T.V. away until he can behave appropriately?)
Comment By : Exhausted mum
* To ‘Exhausted mum’: It’s so hard to learn that your child has been aggressive toward another child—nobody wants to hear that their child is behaving that way. It’s great that you are working on holding your son accountable for this behavior. One thing to keep in mind is that consequences alone are not enough to change behavior. It’s going to be very important to have consequences that help your son to learn, but it’s even more important to problem solve with your son and teach him some different ways to handle whatever issue led to his decision to act out. For example, ask him what happened right before he did what he did to the girl, or what he was trying to accomplish by doing what he did. Then talk about what he could do differently in similar situations in the future. As a consequence, you might have him write an apology to the other student that includes what he could have done differently. You might also put just one privilege on hold until he goes two days without hurting a peer—this will motivate him to practice the behavior you want to see. Here are a couple articles that might be helpful to you: The Surprising Reason for Bad Child Behavior: "I Can't Solve Problems" & Acting Out in School: When Your Child is the Class Troublemaker. We wish you and your son luck as you work through this. Take care.
Comment By : Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor
I am a 55 yr old grandmother with custody of 2 grand children, 11 and 12. The 11 yr old has ADD, but is a delightful child with a positive personality, My 12 yr old granddaughter has a history of trouble in school , mostly for bulliing, a behavior that happens at home also. She is VERY abusive verbaly to me, her brother, and teachers. She is constantly in detention in school for being disruptive and abusive in school and not following the rules. My husband , not their grandfather , doesnt want them with us, and and Honestly, acts the same way she does , with rages, and im my opinion, boardeline personality traits. How do keep peace in my house?
Comment By : dianamarie56
* To “dianamarie56”: First, let me say how much I admire you for raising your grandchildren. It is not an easy task even in the best of situations. It is a situation we are encountering more and more frequently on the Parental Support Line. Your desire to focus on the behavior that is happening at home is the most practical. It’s also going to be most effective to focus on what you can control. You can’t control how your granddaughter behaves but you can control how you respond to the behavior. As much as possible, try to remain calm in the face of your granddaughter’s outburst and don’t get pulled into power struggles. When she becomes verbally disrespectful or abusive you can say something to her like “It’s not Ok to talk to me that way” and then turn around and walk away. You can teach her sibling to do the same. It will be important to hold her accountable for her behavior later with a task-oriented consequence. It will also be helpful to problem solve with her better ways to deal with her frustration and anger than bullying and being verbally disrespectful. Here are a couple of articles I think may be helpful for you and your situation: Aggressive Child Behavior Part I: Fighting in School and at Home & Aggressive Child Behavior Part II: 7 Tools to Stop Fighting in School and at Home . Best wishes as you and your family work through these challenges. Take care
Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor
We have a 13 year old girl who has always lied about little things like did she brush her teeth, did she empty the dishwasher, is that her cup and plate downstairs. But now she is lying about turning in her homework when she knows we can (and will) follow up with her teachers. She has really never done what we've asked her to do unless we give her a consequence. Such as needing to clean her room, do her laundry or other "chores" and now doing her homework and turning it in is added to the list. Why do we always have to have a consequence (not getting to play in a bball tournament, no friends can come over, etc) before she'll do what we need her to do? It's getting rather tiring.
Comment By : HuskerMom
* To “HuskerMom”: Thank you for writing in to Empowering Parents. Many parents struggle with having to reward or consequence their children in order for them to do what they are supposed to do. I can hear how tiresome this can be for you. Granted, children “should” do what is expected of them without threat of a consequence or promise of a reward. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes it can be helpful to look at the privileges your daughter has as a type of currency: she earns them by completing the tasks you assign her and meeting the other expectations you have around behavior and respect. Truth is rewards and consequences are part of our everyday life as adults. Let’s use the work world as an example. I am expected to arrive at my job by a certain time, complete the tasks assigned to me and stay until either I’m scheduled to leave or the work is done, depending on the type of job I have. The reward for meeting all of these expectations is a paycheck which I can then use to pay bills and buy things I want. The consequence when I don’t meet these expectations is most likely loss of that job and not being able to pay my bills or buy things I want. Using consequences and rewards in order to motivate your daughter is actually helping her learn how to be accountable for her choices. Here are a couple articles you may also find helpful: Bribing Kids vs. Rewarding Kids for Good Behavior: What's the Difference?, How to Get Your Child to Listen: 9 Secrets to Giving Effective Consequences & Homework Survival for Parents. We wish you and your family the best. Take care.
Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor
I've purchased the Total Transformation Program but have only managed to get through Lesson One so far, even though it's been a month. Why? Because my son drains the life energy out of me and once he is asleep I can barely function. I need to get back at it, because obviously the consequences I am choosing are ineffective, because he doesn't CARE. They do not cause him to change his behavior, and he refuses to comply with the consequence (like a letter of apology, or taking care of the thing I couldn't do because I had to spend so much time dealing with him). Refusal to comply with anything or lack of caring about anything is so disheartening. I am so worried in light of what happened on Friday. It truly has become a power struggle, and the one thing I learned in Lesson One is to walk away, but he is not old enough for me to leave him alone, or truly I would just LEAVE the house. He won't leave the room, so I'm supposed to hide in my bedroom to avoid the argument? I don't get that part. Finding effective consequences appears to be the crux of the issue here too, and just complete refusal to comply with ANYTHING.
Comment By : packermomof2
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