The Consequence of No Consequences

consequencesThe Problem.

When there are no consequences for misbehavior, there’s a problem. Sadly, the problem is more with the parent than the child. It is rare to find a child who will deliver his own consequence for poor behavior. If a child isn’t going to do it, then who is? Whose responsibility is it?

I remember days of frustration when I’d lament to Dave about a certain child (or more than one) who had caused me grief throughout the day. You know what their father told me? “The problem isn’t the child; it’s the mother. You aren’t administering any consequences. If you’d lay down the law, they’d obey.”

Strange how he didn’t have problems in behavior with the same kids. That’s because he (usually) laid down the law and followed through. Usually, our kids knew that misbehavior brought consequences. They had to decide if the consequence was worth their poor behavior. If all a child gets is a reprimand when he continually makes everyone late because he dallies around getting ready, then there’s no reason to quit dallying. If he loses a privilege or misses a fun event, he’ll be quicker to get ready the next time. Our problem is that we don’t want the child to miss the fun event or miss out on something because he’s late. We just don’t want them to suffer too much, do we? So we cater and give in – and continue to be frustrated.

Worth the Consequence

If a consequence is not severe enough, a child will usually continue the behavior. Whether it’s picking up his toys, putting his clothes in the hamper instead of the floor, or being ready on time for an event, a child will learn to remedy his behavior when the consequences are unpleasant enough. That’s where the parent (or the adult) comes in. I tended to give lesser consequences – and it showed. True, at times I felt the man of the house could have been more lenient. Yet I have to admit that his firmness brought better results than my gentler approach.

consequenceChoosing Consequences

Before you shell out a consequence, here are some things to consider.


  1. Ask God for wisdom.
  2. Consider the advice of other seasoned parents whose children listen well.
  3. Be on the same page with your spouse. Don’t undermine his consequences; he must not undermine yours.
  4. Make consequence decisions together when possible.
  5. Wait until you are not upset. Develop consequences when you are no longer frustrated, upset, angry, or hurt.
  6. Measure your consequences: is this something reasonable or will it be impossible to follow through? 
  7. Don’t expect your spouse to follow through if you are unreasonable. If you don’t want to follow through on those consequences, then don’t expect your spouse to handle it alone when you’re out of town. It’s difficult to follow through on something you don’t feel good about in the first place. Don’t do that to your spouse, and ask him not to do that to you.
  8. Think through what outcome you want and come up with something that will give your child initiative to arrive at that outcome. You can read more about that here in a post about time for time, making the punishment fit the crime, and gain for pain.
  9. Follow through. This is the hardest part! Grand and glorious plans and schemes will get you nowhere if you don’t follow through. Our kids know that, and they will distract us if we’re not careful. Anybody want to ask me how I know?! Following through takes effort, concentration, commitment, and resilience. Not owning these will make your child the winner.

If you want to be the winner, then develop consequences that will make your child want to grow and mature. Don’t let your home be overrun with the no consequence problem.



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