Ask 1-on-1 Coaching: Am I Giving My Son the Right Consequences?

Posted March 5, 2008 by

Dear 1-on-1 Coaching,

We have two sons, ages 15 and 13. My 13-year-old is struggling in school. He is an athlete and I seem to always hold this consequence over him: “If you don’t get good grades, you are not going to play baseball.” But, now that I have read many of your articles, I don’t think that I am doing the right thing. Good grades and baseball don’t match according to the rule of “the punishment should fit the crime.”

Any suggestions?

Thanks, Lisa

Dear Lisa,

We hear from lots of families who wonder how to make the consequences fit the crime. Consequences become effective tools when they are related to the behavior you want to see change, so you’re right – threatening to take your son out of sports isn’t likely to help him improve his school performance. If your son is having a hard time in school, he needs to come up with specific ways he can improve his performance. Kids often engage in wishful thinking – thinking things will get better just because I say they will – but that kind of faulty thinking blocks effective problem-solving. He needs specific behaviors he can practice in order to turn things around. Consequences help keep him on track, and encourage him to learn new ways of solving the school problem.

Here’s an example: if your child is behind on homework assignments, he may need to have a homework folder initialed by his teachers each day in order to keep his assignments straight. He then needs to spend a couple of hours each day doing his homework in order to improve his grades. With the daily homework folder initialed by the teacher, and his homework completed, he is then free to use the computer, or play video games, or whatever a suitable privilege would be in your family. If he does not bring that homework folder home, he loses privileges for that day. As part of his consequence, he might also need to make a list of things he will do tomorrow to help him remember to bring it home. The next day, he gets to try again.

Remember, your role as a parent is to help your child learn more effective problem-solving skills, not threaten – or even reward – him into compliance. Keep your consequences time- and task-specific, and you’ll go a long way in helping your child learn.

–Megan Devine, LCPC, 1-on-1 Coach

If you have a question for “Ask 1-on-1 Coaches,” please email

Need more support? The Total Transformation Program offers practical, real world solutions for your most challenging parenting problems. As a Total Transformation customer, you can enroll in our 1-on-1 Coaching service. For more information, call (800) 460-2235.


Megan Devine is a licensed clinical therapist, former 1-on-1 Coaching Advisor, speaker and writer. She is also the bonus-parent to a successfully launched young man. You can find more of her work at, where she advocates for new ways to live with grief.

Popular on Empowering Parents

Reader Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Snippy (Edit) Report

    To the last entry, James Lehman suggests “What could you do differently?” the next time you get angry? Your son is acting out because he doesn’t know how to solve the problem.I know that even for myself, I do not always behave as I need to; I get angry and impatient quickly, probably because I have not learned the skill of slowing down.
    When it comes to sports, yes I agree that if children have some learning disabilities, it might be the best thing for them to have an outlet. We have two boys; one very sporty naturally and the other more on the artful side. Last year he was 15 and had not played much sports except street hockey. We put him in ball hockey for the summer and ice hockey for the winter. Despite him being not as well practiced as the others, he came out shining because he worked so hard! It did so much for him. I like the suggestion that one set of parents took him to the game and practice to let him watch instead of participating. A great teaching tool!

  2. Renee (Edit) Report

    I have an 8yr old boy (in the process of being adopted) that doesn’t do well in school, says he doesn’t like it cause it not fun like playing….gym is his favorate subject (go figure). The Foster system has really failed this kid he is a full grade behind and sitting in a regular 3rd grade classroom trying to keep up and it is a lot of catch up with grades, social skills, coping skills; basically life skills

    We recently took him off of medication (previously used to dope him up and dumb him down) and are starting intensive home therapy to teach him coping skills. Our problem recently is that he is getting into fights and throwing tantrums (at school, we have him under control at home with life skill techniques that we use). He is doing well with adults (they have clear boundaries) but he does not do well with his piers. We really wanted to get him into sports but because of his grades (which we got a tutor for him through the NCLB act) and his agression towards piers we are afraid to add the additional stress of sports.

    We are trying to match consequeses with his behavior, but not sure what is appropriate consequenses for fighting or through a tantrum in school. Right now he has to go to bed 1/2 earlier, removed his DS and no TV for a week for fighting last Friday. It just seemed to escalte the problem and he fought on Monday, Wed through a tantrum in the classroom and fought Thurs. School officials are taking proper disciplinary actions and trying to work with us. We are working with all kinds of doctors and they are great. But as a parent I am at a loss on how to get through this rough patch. Any advise would be very helpful at this point.

  3. Jane (Edit) Report

    My grandaughter is ADHD and has a hard time keeping
    her school papers organized. She loses her homework
    or she will have history papers in her math folder.
    She also hides her homework so won’t have to do it.
    She loves to play Pokemon, and draws P. pictures at
    school, while failing some of her classes. I can’t
    seem to get through to her; to take responsibility
    to get her assignments done and stay focused. She
    doesn’t seem to care. We’ve tried taking her DS
    game, and taking other things from her. We have
    talked to the school guidance, and they replied that
    she wasn’t the only one. I was very disappointed in
    this response, and I’m not sure what to do. I would
    love to hear some response from anyone. Thanks.

  4. suzanne (Edit) Report

    My now 16 yr old, was in sports( a couple yrs. ago ), while she was in sports she went to school every day, never had any trouble with her getting up,once in a while the normal trouble hour late etc.
    Then she stop doing sports and now she is completely out of control. She’s not an hour late anymore, it’s days or weeks late, with no calls, nothing. Keep your kids in sports as long as you possibly can. That’s just my opinion.

  5. Diane Wiley (Edit) Report

    Do not pull your kids from sports if you can help it – especially if they have ADD or learning disabilities. I think it’s wrong for the schools to do it too because often this is the only thing they have going and it’s a positive thing. But, if the school does have this policy and when they are older, it will, try to get your kid into a community league. Talk with them about the consequences of not getting homework done for them and sports and, even if they say, I don’t care, they do. As Dr. Lehman says, you have to give them the skills to get the homework done and other incentives. But don’t take away sports, you WILL regret it.

  6. Lorri (Edit) Report

    My son is 13 and I can hardly stand it. He is flunking absolutely everything. He doesn’t bring home homework, he doesn’t do it if he brings it, nothing I do consequence wise affects him. I”m ready to tear my hair out.
    He wears his pants below his rear end and thinks that’s cool…..I think it is disgusting…….he is respectful to his teachers, they love him, but doesn’t do his work….and turn it in…….I”m at a loss.
    Since I’ve started this program, things have improved somewhat, I”m no longer yelling and threatening, but I”m stumped with what to do about the school issue.
    I don’t like the friends he hangs out with either.

  7. Terry (Edit) Report

    My son is a freshman and in track, and recently I went to parent-teacher conferences. He got 2 F’s and a D on his report card, and his school has a policy that the sports coach gets a report of the student’s grades every week. If their grades slip too much, they get removed from the team until they get their grades up.

  8. Lisa (Edit) Report

    Keep your kids in sports! It is a great stress reliever at the end of a hard school day. My son has soo much energy that soccer helps him unwind and sleep better through the night. My son is also struggling in school and has a daily contract the teacher has to complete at the end of each day. If he does not get 80% or higher he loses his privileges for the day. This contract helps him stay accountable for his daily tasks, homework, etc.

  9. lynn corsi (Edit) Report

    School, when we were young was more of a priviledge. Now it is a forced thing. Respect for adults, was just what we did, now kids call us by our first names, there is no respect. Alot of things changed in our concern for child abuse. Something didn’t go as it should’ve. With this we get the no respect. I’m not sure what went wrong, but something did.

  10. Leanna (Edit) Report

    I am relieved to know that I’m not the only parent struggling with this, and that we can all rely on God to help us live with what our kids’ choices end up being. I too have a nearly 13 yr. old boy whose disinterest and demotivating attitude toward school and toward authority is very disheartening. While on the other hand, this same child is extremely creative, and generous.

    He drives Dad and I crazy as he will avoid hard work like the plague, and dad grew up on a farm, working from before sun up to sunset, as well as school, and learned in middle school how to build houses. I went to a private school, and maintained on the honor roll throughout my schooling, and work as a nurse. Both of us have a strong work ethic. It is frustrating to watch our son behave with such apathy; we struggle to understand it when we ourselves never recall being demotivated about our achievements. I’m sure we had other faults, but that wasn’t one of them.

    Yet, James is a very creative and very generous. He’ll spend quite a while picking out something special for me for Mothers Day or my birthday; and whenever he has a chance to earn prizes at a birthday party or pizza place, he will save out some of his coupons for prizes to get his twin little sisters something too. It’s amazing that while they have certain behaviors that just drive us crazy, they have those special qualities that make them unique. God is good, in spite of our short comings.

  11. LISA (Edit) Report

    from the variety of comments it’s almost 50/50. who really knows how it’ll turn out. As a parent we are damned if we do or don’t. My 14 yr old daughter (paris hilton-reincarnated) refuses to get up in the morning and has for 3 yrs. it’s been a struggle. I have done everything from letting the punishment fit the crime to throwing ice cold water on her to get her up. of course now she’s on the countdown to 18 yrs so she “can move out” phase. I’ve done earlier bedtimes to no cheering anymore & the progress is minimal. I am not opposed to taking them out of recreational activities whatsoever. it is an “earned” privilege. i tell my chilren all the time – I am Vice President of two companies and if you think i’m hard – just wait till you have a BOSS. Of course they think i don’t know what i’m talking about…..yet. just as they don’t know I was “cool” too when i was their age. HA!HA!

  12. Georgina (Edit) Report

    I find it really hard sometimes to come up with a natural
    Consequence to some of her actions,but i have to say that ever since we have finally put our foot down and meant what we say and follow through with things that we say i have to admitt that things have not been that bad we are still trying to learn and deal with alot of the things that she says and does.I have to admitt that she has come a ways better then what she used to be sometimes she has the old things that she used to do come back and she thinks that we will give in but we dont.I would never take sprts away from her but that would be an option that i would allow the school to do.I have done things to help her when i found out she was not doing her homework i had come up with a plan and the child youth worker in the school called me every night and sent notes home as to what needed to be done and caught up with homework,then i made sure she did it cause she sat at the table every night till bedtime for 4 weeks till she was done and all caught up.Then after we went through all that she resorted to not behaving and listening in class to the teachers so i got upset that she was doing this so after about 3 months of listening to the school complain about this i took it into my own hands and i told them i was going to come in and sit in class with her and make sure that she listens to them,i did this for a whole week and she was embarassed that i did this cause she didnt think that i would and i did and ever since then she has been behaving and listening to the teachers and now after about 3 months she was going back to the old ways and all i have to do is look her in the eyes and say would you like to have mom come sit with you in class again and she looks at me and knows that i mean it and she says no and then starts to behave again.I feel taking away school sprts should be up to the school not the parents now if you are taking away extra caricular activities that they do on thier own time to smarten them up and get them to do thier homework then yes cause i have done that the only thing i have never taken away from her on hometime is the army cadets.

  13. cathie (Edit) Report

    My son was walking at 9 months, skating at 3years old, catch and throw a ball by 4. He loved everything about moving. You could tell he was very proud of himself when he concured new activities. Then school came into this kids life with avengens!! He couldn’t do it.. it didn’t come as easy to him. He couldn’t master it. He went to school every day even though he struggled because of recess. Everyone wanted Mitch on their team..cause they would win. Middle school came and there was no recess to help him feel sucess during his school day. His friends were making the grade but he couldn’t. We took all sports away except for hockey (because he really excelled inn that) so that he could do his homework. We were so wrong!! If I could only go back. We didn’t realize sports was his life line at school. By ten grade he couldn’t play because of his grades.. and the year was horrible!! He needed to find another avenue to feel accepted by his classmates.. fighting!!! He’s a big kid and can hold his own! (except for his teeth!!!) Sports were my sons life in line in school and the school took that away from him! The school would not support us either. We met with them quartely. Emails back and forth with teachers. High buck tutors.(Huntington, A+ totoring) Keeping track of homework. Finally he was sent to an alternative school with students who didn’t care about themsleves or anyone else for that matter. Try to get Mitch to understand that he didn’t need to fit in with these kids..he just needed to go there to graduate.(this was 11 and 12th grade) Long story short… His girlfriend saved his life!!! he spent time with her instead of the kids at that school. And he could handle the work they excepted him to do..he made and made up all the credits he needed and graduated!!!!
    I know you say we can’t blame the school and I understand what your saying. But you didn’t have to deal with these people…..

  14. Laure (Edit) Report

    Keep them in sports. It may be one of the few positives for them… one of the few things that build self esteem. My brother was very athletic growing up, but never in sports. (He came in first place in a few one day track events. H.S. coach tried to get him to join the track team, but he didn’t.) Relatives often thought if he had played sports, he wouldn’t have gotten into so much trouble. After all, they still have all that energy and they WILL do something with it… may as well be sports. My son is also a very gifted athlete. Several people have suggested taking away sports as a consequence. We’ve done that occasionally, but are really trying to avoid it. When we didn’t allow him to participate in an upcoming soccer game, we talked to his coach ahead of time and were blessed to have his support. We brought him to the game, traveling the hour and 1/2 distance to the game so he could sit the bench with both parents and siblings watching. On the way there, he asked that if there weren’t enough players or if some got hurt, that he might get to play. We promptly told him that he was not going to play that day and the team, then, may have to forfeit. Likewise, we feel that if we take away a practice session, for the punishment to be effective, we must bring him to the practice to sit and watch. We did this because when we previously took away a game, we felt that he never really realized what he was missing. But, let’s face it, if they miss games/practices often, they’ll lose their position on the team anyway and that’s not the goal for us. So, we are concentrating on other consequences for correcting behavior problems.

  15. Linda (Edit) Report

    We took our son out of sports for the same reasons. Boy, do we regret it and in hindsight wished we had supplemented him with a tutor. After several years of struggling in school, missing homework, low test scores, etc. a neuropsychologist diagnosed him with learning disabilities. His lack of school success looked like laziness and rebellion. Trying to get him back into sports, after such a long timeout has been impossible. He has completely lost interest and is missing the many benefits the sports offer.

  16. Rick (Edit) Report

    I was worried you would not address the subject of not bringing the homework home with them. Been there, done that. Unfortunatly even when you request that teachers sign off only a minority of them will do so. Seems they don’t have time or some other lame excuse (yes I questioned them at conferences on this) as to why they didn’t. I also followed up with the principal and then the school board with no success. Time to pull the children out of the public schools.

  17. Sam (Edit) Report

    How funny to read this since my husband is a baseball coach right now at the same age level of your boys. He’s a public school physical fitness teacher and summer camp athletic director, plus coached three sports. His school has a policy that children can not participate on school teams unless they have a 70 average. He has had many parents complain when he’s had to cut or bench students with too low of grades. As a couple with 4 children we expect education to come first and sports second. We stand by this rule and don’t think children should play on teams if they aren’t living up to their ability to succeed in the classroom. The time spent playing could be used to educate and bring grades up. After all the odd of getting into a school on a scholarship for a sport is low, but education DOES last a lifetime!

  18. Bob Cheatham (Edit) Report

    Consequences should fit the behavior, yes. But I disagree with this application. Sports are a privalege like video games. In school related sports, you don’t play if you don’t make your grades. School work and grades are more important than baseball. First things first. Some children need more than reminders, they need incentives.



Join our NEW Total Transformation® Learning Center!

Practical, affordable parenting help starting at $14.95/month BECOME A MEMBER TODAY!

Empowering Parents is the leading online resource for child behavior help


Parent Coaching Sessions

7.5 Million

Global Visitors

10+ Years

Helping Families