Tag Archive for: How do I determine consequences

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”,

How to Get Your Kid’s Attention When They Aren’t Listening

Last week I gave you two homework assignments.  If you didn’t see them, you can read about them here.  How did you do?  If you were able to complete them, especially the one about remaining silent when your kids weren’t listening, pat yourself on the back — well done!

I talk to moms all the time about their concern that their kids are addicted to video games or YouTube or their phones.  If you didn’t read it, I wrote about the potential of this addictive like behavior  and the frustration of trying to get our kids to listen to us when they are engrossed in something.  We ask them to do something (like come to the dinner table), they might grunt (if we are lucky), and continue without thought as to what we are asking.  It is almost as if they are oblivious to our voice.  We then get irritated and yell or potentially roll over and ignore the whole scene.  I’ve had moms tell me that they’ve unplugged the device they’ve been so upset and I remember one Facebook video where a dad actually threw a gaming system out the window because he was so mad at this kids.  None of these responses is healthy.

So what is a mom to do?

Before we go there, something you might not realize is that if your kids are engrossed in something–say video games, an intense movie, lively and intense music, or some other activity they are really enjoying, like texting with a friend–then they are revving up their dopamine levels.  Sometimes as much as of doubling them.  Dopamine works like a feel good hormone.  If they are engaging in these activities, then most likely they won’t hear you. 

The other thing is that they don’t want to hear you.  Who wants to go from happy, exciting things to listening to their mom?  That would be boring.

So how do we break out of the cycle of our kid being engrossed in an activity, not listening to our request, and then us getting upset and grounding them?

First, let me assure you that while  it is doubtful that your kid is an addict if he’s involved in other things, as a parent it sure feels like it sometimes.  

Second, if we can take a moment and look at addictive patterns, it might help us as parents figure out a way to break the cycle with our kids.


There is one thing I’ve learned about addictive behaviors that I’m told holds true 100 percent of the time:  You can’t help an addict unless they want help and recognize their need for help.

So, as mom, it becomes our job to help our kids recognize their need for help.  Here are some suggesting on how to do that.

  1. Make them aware of the problem.  Since most kids’ brains don’t fully develop until they are 25-27, your kid may not even recognize that they have a problem.  If they aren’t making the connection between their behavior and your response, you might need to have a conversation over ice cream or a hot mocha. Most teens don’t want privileges taken away .  The only thing they see is mom being mean.  It’s your job to help them make the connection.
  2. Ask questions.  Ask about their dreams for the future and let them know you want them to have fun and friends.  You might even ask them how they see video games, or whatever they spend their time on, helping them reach their goals.  Listen, listen, listen.
  3. Admit your own addictive behaviors (within reason of course).  Was there a time you became so engrossed in other things that the important things didn’t seem so important?  Empathize and make a connection between your current or past behavior and your teens’.  Let them know what is happening is normal.
  4. Talk about life balance.  Trust me when I say this is a real issue for college students!  Now is the time to teach these skills.  Draw a pie chart and have them draw what they think each piece of the pie equates to in terms of time in how they should spend their day.  Then have them keep track of the time in each category in how they do spend their day.  Most kids have no idea how much time gets consumed by their habits.
  5. Get their input on how to solve the problem.   Maybe a small reward if they can become more aware of your requests?  Perhaps a timer to put the device away at a specific time?  Or maybe a friendly competition to help both of you change behaviors.  Know that it will most likely need to be something they “want” to do over the activity you are frustrated about.  Again, they have to want to change.  

Anger and resentment or being a doormat for your kids doesn’t teach your kids the skills they need to be successful as adults.  Respecting them in a way that builds relationship — I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine — helps them see the need to move forward in maturity and obedience.

I think the words that Hannah Whitall Smith writes in her book The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life about how God parents us is so applicable as we parent our teens.  She writes, “He writes his laws on our hearts and on our minds, and we love them, and are drawn, by our affections and judgment, not driven, to our obedience.”

Dare you to woo your tweens and teens to obedience by writing on their hearts and minds through respectful communication.  If you do, maybe they’ll want to hear and respond in kind to you.

“Let go…and let God”,

What to become a MASTER at handling conflict? Titus 2 Leadership Boot Camp