3 Things to Consider with Rules and Consequences

Parents often ask me if I think a specific consequence is appropriate for a given situation with their kids.  They wonder if it is too harsh or too lenient or tied enough to the offense.  Inevitably the conversation transpires into the “rules” that have been established and why they are there.

The question I typically ask is this:  “Is there a need for a consequence?”

What I’ve discovered with a number of parents is the idea that “if the kid has done something wrong or inappropriate then there needs to be a consequence”.

Think about that mentality for a minute.

What if every time you said the wrong thing or failed to do something because you forgot or didn’t do it quickly enough someone was there to critically evaluate and issue you a consequence.

Would you feel grateful that someone was pointing out your mistakes?

Would you feel compelled to get it right next time?

Would you appreciate the consequence for your shortcomings knowing it was in your best interest?

Or would you feel frustrated and downtrodden at how incapable you are?

Trust me when I say that it is easy for us as moms to take Newton’s Law of Motion and apply it in our parenting.  We think that for every action our child does there needs to be  an equal and opposite reaction so that our child will be the _____ adult we want them to become.  

Fill in the blank with your own idol.  Perfect, talented, Godly, clean (for those of you who might consider cleanliness is next to godliness), organized, thoughtful…and the list goes on.

But is that how God parents us?

Does He chastise us every time we make a mistake?

Let’s face it, in the world in which we live thankfully there is not a police officer behind us every time we go over the speed limit issuing us a ticket.

I’ll admit that it is easy to fall into the trap of wanting to issue consequences for every infraction.  After all, our desire is to raise good, wholesome adults.  But sometimes, especially when you have a difficult child that seems to break all of the rules, we feel like we need to do something.

Colossians 3:21

Fathers (and mothers), do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

Psalm 127:3

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.

Here are some things to consider as you contemplate the need for rules and consequences with your tweens and teens.

  1. Are there too many rules?   Many parents like order in their home so rules and consequences are constantly being added.  Every time there is a new problem then a new family rule gets instituted.  Most times these are the homes that are dictatorial which translates broken rule = consequence or the parents become passive because there are too many rules to keep track of leaving the kid to wonder if there will be a consequence “this time“.  As kids move into the tween and teen years we need to be focusing on their character and the relationship rather than the rules. 
  2. Are there too many consequences?  Imagine walking into your 12 year old daughter’s room.  There are clothes all over the floor (offense #1), she didn’t vacuum the steps like she was told over an hour ago (offense #2), she is on your cell phone which she snuck into her room (offense #3), and this is the third time she has taken your phone without your permission.  i.e. this will be the third week in a row that she has lost her phone privileges if you take it away again. I’ve talked to many parents who think they have to issue a consequence for each infraction.  Try thinking differently.  A better way might be to handle a conversation something like this: “I know that the last couple of weeks have been difficult without your phone.  Help me understand what was so important that you felt the need to take my phone without asking.”  Then listen.  Maybe the conversation on the phone is important–more important to her than potential consequences. Consequences haven’t solved the problem before so why do we think they will this time?  And the other stuff (offense #1 and #2)?  Ignore it for now.  Unless it is life or death, it doesn’t need to be dealt with now.  Take one hill at a time.  Period.
  3. Do you keep issuing consequences for the same thing?  I’ve been guilty of stacking consequences for what must have seemed like eternity to my kids.  I’ve seen others do it as well.   One friend’s son had racked up enough consequences that he was grounded for almost six months from almost everything!  One day I asked his mom how it was going.  Her response, “I feel like we’re grounded because he is!”  It was to the point that her husband went camping with the other kids and she stayed home with the son who was grounded.  If we give our kids no hope of ever getting out of our self-inflicted jail, then maybe our kid is asking “what’s the point?”  If you find yourself there, try a reset.  Release both of you from the miserable prison you are in and start a discussion on what your kid needs from you to be successful.  Give your child a new lease on life that begins with hope.

Rather than issuing consequences why not use those shortcomings as opportunity for connecting.  Find out what motivates your child.  I’m not talking bribes here, I’m suggesting relationship opportunity.  Share a story about when you didn’t meet the standard as a kid.  Let them know that they are learning to become an adult.  Ask permission to make suggestions on how they could orchestrate their life to be more successful in certain areas.  And then encourage!

Hebrews 10:24

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds

Dare you to consider whether you need to re-look at your parenting and how many rules and consequences you have.  Maybe it’s time to lighten everyone’s spirits and focus on the relationship.

“Let go…and Let God”,

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply