Getting Concrete on Creative Consequences

The usual consequences don’t seem to be working for three rambunctious boys. This dad asks for suggestions on how to make consequences memorable enough for their three young boys, especially when those boys share a room.

Q: We have successfully used tickets with our oldest two (now delightful and responsible older teens). We have three younger children—all rambunctious and high-strung boys—5-year-old identical twins and their 9-year-old brother. All three share a room, and therein lies the rub. 

I need a suggestion for what happens when two or all three run out of tickets. With the older ones, we sent them to their room for the day and, in the case of the oldest, “kicked her out of the garden” a couple of times. I can’t see how that works with three in a room and, frankly, a break or timeout—or even spankings—isn’t cutting the mustard. These things have had little effect and put the peace of the entire family at the mercy of a single miscreant or miscreants who can raise enough fuss to make the house unlivable. They are violent to one another when their will is thwarted, generally, respect no limits, and have generally proven utterly impervious to correction, going into conniptions at the mildest of rebukes, thus turning every molehill into Everest.

You asked for specific consequences, but without knowing your kids, it’s hard for me to suggest specific punishments that will work with your kids. That’s because every kid is different.

Believe me, we know it’s tough and, if I or my wife had two brain cells left together to be creative, I wouldn’t be asking experts.  Please answer with one or more concrete “Do it this way” suggestions. Thank you.

A: First of all, you are not alone in your frustration that consequences don’t seem to be “working.” Many of the parents I talk with have the same concern—not sure how to use consequences effectively to bring about real change in their child’s behavior.

And having two boys of my own, I get the physical stuff is All The Time, and things can get out of hand in a nanosecond. Before you know it, either something’s broken, or someone’s bleeding or crying.

You asked for specific consequences, but without knowing your kids, it’s hard for me to suggest specific punishments that will work with your kids. That’s because every kid is different. But I will provide some concrete guidelines for figuring this out. If you follow these suggestions, you’ll be able to come up with consequences that should make your boys stop, think and choose the right thing. (There’s no guarantee that any consequence will make your child do the right thing–that’s because we’re working with kids, not animals. We as parents must keep doing the right thing, even in the face of a child who doesn’t seem to care about consequences.)

  1. Get to know your child. When you know what your kid loves to do, that’s where you make him an offer he can’t refuse (The Godfather Principle). For example, my kids love to read, I mean really, really, really love to read. In that we have to go to the library at least weekly to keep up. And I love that they love to read. But I also like that their love of reading gives me a great consequence when they misbehave. So at various times, I’ve taken away their books for extended periods of time in order to motivate them to do the right thing. And it works because the monkey is on their back, not mine.
  2. Make it memorable. Don’t fool around with giving a consequence for a day or two. Pull out the big guns and go for at least 30 days straight. See Charts in the discipline methods section of this website for further details on using Charts with specific consequences.
  3. Renew your connection with your kids. Make sure that you have more positive than negative interactions with your kids, even when they are being punished. They still need to feel that you love them, so make their favorite meals, spend one-on-one time with them, and ensure you are connecting with them in way that shows them your love.

There’s still time to join my online class on obedience and consequences. The Obedient Child walks parents through how to discipline your child in a way that reaches their heart (it’s a biblically based course). Click here for more info on how to join this self-directed course.

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