Effective consequences

John and Kendra Smiley

John and Kendra Smiley are popular speakers and authors, ministering to parents nationally and internationally.

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At seminars and conferences we do our best to make ourselves available for questions when we leave the platform. Here’s one we recently received after we spoke about parenting a strong-willed child.

“Our strong-willed son misbehaved and I took away his iPad for 24 hours. The consequence was effective. When I took his iPad for 2 days it also modified his behavior. Weeks later after our son crossed the boundary my husband decided longer would be better. He lost his iPad for a month. That didn’t work at all.” 

Why didn’t the one-month consequence work?

It’s difficult for a strong-willed child to think long term. When the consequences were extended to a month, the iPad was, in the mind of this young man, gone for good, and the consequence lost its power to modify his behavior.

Is that also the case with a more compliant child?

Not necessarily. The chances are great that a more compliant child is better able to think long-term. They realize that staying within the boundary set by mom and dad will be necessary to regain use of the iPad.

What’s the lesson for the parents of a strong-willed child?

The lesson is 2-fold.

1. The consequences must be more immediate to change behavior. Losing a privilege for a day or two will be, as this parent discovered, much more effective than the loss of the same privilege for a longer period of time.

2. It’s important for every child to learn to think long-term. This skill will pay big dividends in childhood and beyond.

Quoting Nathan, a 10 year old in our lives:

“There’s a fine line between fun and stupid.”

And it’s the ability to think long-term that will help kids stay on the right side of that line.

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