Congratulations to all of our readers with winning entries for the Consequences Story Contest and DVD Giveaway! My email inbox was truly overflowing with all of your different and effective ways to use consequences. And by the way, your parental creativity and follow-through really impressed me and the 1-on-1 Coaching Advisors here at Legacy Publishing.Thanks again to everyone who sent in their essays!
Each of the winners will receive our Complete Guide to Consequences DVD by James Lehman, MSW. Many congratulations to all!
EP Consequences Story Contest Winners:
- 1st Place: Christine Schuley
- 2nd Place: Diane Krenn
- 3rd Place: Shelly Hopkins
- 4th Place: Michelle Cacicedo
- 5th Place: Lisa Stormer
Randomly Selected Winners:
- Clint Carter
- Margret Long
- Kim Smith
- Clare Sutton
- Deon Vonschirmer
1st Place: Cleaning the Kitchen by Christine Schuley
We have two children whose job it is to clean the kitchen. We normally rotate the job every week between our daughter, 12, and our son, 9. Typically, neither of them does a stellar job, and this has been the cause of many arguments in our household. We’ve shown them both what we expect, but they often rush through to get to something they would rather be doing. After reading one of your articles about consequences, we decided to try something different. Previously, we had always taken away a privilege or grounded the kids for a certain amount of time when they misbehaved. Your article talked about how imposing a punishment for an amount of time is similar to criminals doing time; the kids don’t really learn how to improve their behavior. Instead, they just get angry that they’re being punished. The next time our daughter did a poor job on the kitchen, we changed the consequence. We told her it would be her job to clean the kitchen every night until she could show us what it meant to do a good job. Of course, she was upset at first, but we explained that the timeframe was strictly up to her. She had complete control of the situation. It took her four extra nights, extending into her brother’s week for kitchen duty, but by the end of that time, she was cleaning the kitchen well enough to eat off the counters, literally! While I can’t say she still does this well every single time she has to clean the kitchen, her efforts are much better each time and we rarely argue about the kitchen any more.
Note from PSL: Great ideas, Christine. Effective consequences help your child learn to do the behavior—or the task–more appropriately. It also sounds like you were able to describe to your daughter what a “clean kitchen” meant! Some kids need that extra description or example in order to understand what “clean” means to grown-ups.—Megan Devine, LCPC, 1-on-1 Coaching Advisor
2nd Place: “The Volcano Means I’m Angry” by Diane Krenn
My son is fascinated with volcanoes and how they erupt, so I began relating his anger to the idea of a volcano erupting. I would tell him that I saw steam when I saw the beginnings of his mood change and he learned that meant to breathe and calm down before the volcano did erupt, which usually resulted in destruction, and therefore the negative consequence. I used the steam before the volcano, and than the eruption to illustrate his anger.
Now, it was important to be consistent with the good and bad consequences given to my son. I began with small things like good behavior and no eruptions resulting in dessert and doing all your chores for the week earned allowance that week. I also gave negative consequences when necessary for bad choices, such as no TV that night, or no playing the Gameboy for the evening. This system has worked so well this summer that the rewards for his behavior and his allowance (plus other money received as a gift) has earned him the new DS he has wanted for the past eight months. He’s even read 40 books over the summer to earn a Diamondbacks ticket through the public library!
I am amazed at how effectively and quickly my son utilized this “Volcano” model of comparison. He could visualize the volcano erupting and the destruction it caused and began to relate to his own anger. I can warn him, and now with his new awareness, he is able to calm himself down and make good choices. The extremes of his anger are not as intense as they were before he was able to learn about his emotions, choices of behavior, and the consequences to everything. Six months ago he did not understand the impact of his choices. Today, he tells me, “Mom, I know. The volcano means I am angry, you can use the word angry and I will listen so that I do not have to lose a privilege.” He is not perfect, but to see him understand and actually become of aware of the choices he makes, and realize that it truly is his choice to listen because he likes the pay off is a joy. I feel rewarded as a mother because I know I am giving my son a life long lesson about self-validation, emotional awareness, and the natural consequences of his own choices.
Note from PSL: Creative visualization is often helpful for kids, especially at younger ages. Agree on a non-verbal or verbal signal that alerts your child of the need to make immediate changes in their behavior. Especially in the beginning, the signal might not be enough. Encourage your child to come up with some techniques they can use to help them calm down when they feel themselves getting angry, or when they see the agreed-upon signal. Working together, like Diane and her son, you can help your child make more effective choices. —Megan Devine, LCPC, 1-on-1 Coaching Advisor
3rd Place: “Our Son and School” by Shelly Hopkins
We have been dealing with our son’s behavioral problems at school since he started kindergarten, and now he is going into grade 6. A large obstacle that we are learning to deal with is our son and anger management. Things were very severe in grade 4, to the point where we were getting phone calls from his teacher every week and he was being sent home. We had a lot of help and support from the school and my husband and I ordered your program for support as well. We came up with the following consequence: If our son was sent home from school, our home became his school. There was no electronics of any kind allowed—TV, video games, movies, etc. were off limits. And we picked up his homework and he was expected to do it as if he was in school. Needless to say, we got many complaints from him at first on how boring and unfair it was, but I am happy to report that this past school year we were only called once. His teacher said that whenever things started to escalate with his behavior, she would ask him if she needed to call us. His reply was always “No. Things are way worse and more boring at home than here.” The end result is that he has made tremendous improvements at school.
Note from PSL: This is a great way of dealing with your child when he or she is sent home or suspended. Once your child learns that being sent home from school for inappropriate behavior does not mean they gets a mini-vacation, you might see their school performance dramatically improve! By the way, the same approach may work for kids who routinely “skip” school by oversleeping or missing the bus on purpose. Nice work, Shelly!—Megan Devine, LCPC and 1-on-1 Coaching Advisor
4th Place: “Temper, Temper” by Michelle Cacicedo
My name is Michelle and I have three kids. Nicholas(9), Ryan(6) and Noelle(3). I read your article “Temper,Temper” and since then, there has been some peace in my family. I feel like all I do is yell and I feel really bad about it. I want to raise my kids to be good human beings in society, and I realized that my yelling was just teaching them to handle things by yelling. What I do now is tell them what I need them to do or not do. I tell them once, and if they don’t do it, they lose 10 minutes off their bedtime. (They like to watch a program and have a snack after their shower every night.) We had a bad first week—sometimes they went to bed 2 hours before their scheduled bed time!!! I explained to them beforehand that I was not going to yell anymore and that I would tell them once, and if they didn’t do what they were supposed to do, then there would be consequences! It is working! And I feel like, especially for my 6 year old, that he knows what is expected of him now and he feels more secure. Not once have they fought me about the punishment and it getting to be less and less each day. Don’t get me wrong, we still have our moments, but this has not only helped them to listen better, but it has also helped me to listen better and to not yell. One night recently my middle child ran up to me and hugged me and said, “Mom, we didn’t lose any minutes today, isn’t that great!”
Note from PSL: Sometimes it’s hard to see how your actions are affecting your kids’ behaviors. Owning your own part of the dynamic, and making a commitment to change has lasting benefits for the whole family. Great work, Michelle!—Megan Devine, LCPC, 1-on-1 Coaching Advisor
5th Place: “Skateboard Consequences” by Lisa Stormer
Our 13-year old son has a history of using disrespectful language and behavior toward us, and this attitude carried over into school this past year. We never planned ahead of time what we would do when he got in trouble. This, of course, caused spur-of-the-moment anger and we would ground him for long periods of time, eventually taking away everything. Needless to say, he didn’t learn anything from that punishment and having him grounded usually caused more arguments, because he was always home.
Our son and his friends are passionate about skateboarding. They are either playing on their boards in the neighborhood or they go to skateboard parks. We have found that taking away his skateboard has been a very effective consequence. We don’t take it away for very long periods of time because we want him really thinking about what caused him to lose it in the first place. In order to earn it back, he must go the whole time without any disrespectful behavior and no rule-breaking.
The other thing we have done is to stop grounding him. This may not sound like a consequence, but it has turned out very positively. It makes him much more accountable for his actions if all his friends are going to the park and he can go, but doesn’t have a skateboard. In addition, it forces him to make decisions about what he will do differently in order to avoid the consequences. For example, he may be in the same situation tonight that he was in last night. If he chooses to come home late, he loses his skateboard. That knowledge is very fresh in his mind when he has to decide if he wants to come home on time tonight or take a chance on losing his board again.
One of his rewards for making responsible decisions is that he and his friends get rides to the skateboard park. Gas prices being what they are, they get rides twice a week, and if they want to go extra times, they each need to give me a dollar. These rules have forced the kids to each figure out their schedules, and decide what works best for everyone.
We found from previous experience that if denied anything for too long, there would be something else to take its place, which made our consequences ineffective. Taking away one thing and earning it back being contingent upon respectful behavior has been so much better than heaping punishment on top of punishment. We have also learned that short-term punishments are much more effective than long-term punishments.
How did we know this was working? He lost his skateboard for the second time and very politely asked us if we would take away his computer (another very important thing to him) instead of his skateboard. Knowing exactly what to expect really makes a difference. Our consistency took him by surprise, but there have been fewer arguments and less disrespectful behavior.
Note from PSL: Having your son earn his skateboard back is a great way of teaching him to make more appropriate choices! As you learned, grounding and long-term punishments aren’t typically effective. Short-term, behaviorally focused consequences, and parental consistency, are your best bets for improving your child’s behavior. Nice work, Lisa!
Do you have consequences you’d like to share with the EP Community? Please feel free to comment below
About Elisabeth Wilkins
Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.