Effective consequences

John and Kendra Smiley

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


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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