Am I in Trouble?

So your kids wont listen, or they have done something wrong. Now it is time to enforce a consequence. But what are you going to do?

I wish there was a perfect answer for this question. There isn't, but there are some important guidelines that will provide a lot of clarity.

  • Don't ever withhold love as a consequence. When a child gets in trouble they will often rush in for a hug. Don't refuse them. Give them the hug, show love and affection, and THEN enforce the consequence. 
  • Do not use physical force as a response to physical misbehavior. For example. If your child hits you, don't hit them back. In the long run it will not teach the right lesson. It is especially confusing to small children. "You just told me not to hit and then you hit me, I don't understand."
  • Make it clear before things go South, that there are consequences for bad behavior. Talk about it when no one is doing anything wrong. Often times, especially when kids are small, they don't know they have done something wrong until they get in trouble. Set clear expectations and clear consequences if the expectations are not met. 
  • After you have given the warning, if the behavior doesn't immediately change, clearly state the consequence and then enforce. You don't have to explain, justify, negotiate, anything. Enforce the consequence and explain at a later time. When things calm down. 
  • If it is time to enforce a consequence, don't give in. Giving in sends the wrong message to your kids. They will push and push knowing that you are a "softy." They won't ever take you seriously.
  • No idol threats. If you say, "if you yell at me again you will go to your room," and they yell at you again, You BETTER send them to their room. 
  • It is okay to allow kids to have a say in their "punishments", just be sure they are adequate and reasonable.
  • The general rule for time out, 1 minute in time out for ever year your child is old. Time out should not be used for children under 3. A very mature 2 year old, maybe. But as a general rule 3 or older. 
  • When looking for consequences, think about the offense. What would right the wrong? That is a good place to start. What would teach the correct principle, the consequence could be practicing? 
Great, now we have some guidelines, but specifics? What are some specific things that can be done when you need a consequence.

There are two that seem to work the best...
  1. Time out, time away, go to your room, whining chair, it talks on many names. 
A child who is not listening, yelling or talking back, mistreating siblings or friends, needs to be removed from the situation. They can be sent to their room or sent to a specific chair or location. The lesson is, "if you are going to misbehave, then you can't be apart until you change your actions." 

When I tell our daughter that she needs to go to her room she quickly hollers "please, give me one more chance." I did the first time and it back fired on me. Duh! Practice what you preach Heather. The misbehaving didn't stop even though I gave her one more chance. The next time, having learned my lesson, no more chances. Straight to her room. She immediately realized I was serious and her behavior changed. Lesson learned, no idol threats, and we must be consistent.

Remember the rule with time out or away: 1 minute for each year a child is old. (5 year old=5 minutes)

     2. Lose of privilege.

Take a few minutes right now and think about each of your children. What means the most to them? What do they value? 
Our son values technology, TV and computer time, and swimming with his Grandpa.
Our daughter values anything social, swimming with Grandpa, friends, and running errands.
Our youngest values playing outside and books, oh and swimming with Grandpa. 


It is these privileges that are the first to go when they misbehave.
On Saturday the kids were taking forever to make their beds and straighten their rooms because they were struggling to cooperate. They know this has to be done before we go swimming. They also know that if they take forever that they don't get to swim as long or at all. We were late to swim and their hour and a half of swimming was shortened to 35 minutes. They were sad but learned their lesson. Guess who got all their work done "really fast" today. Yep, the kids were not going to miss out again. Now, we could have stayed at the pool for the entire hour and a half, but by enforcing the loss of privilege, they learned. 

When our son is not treating his sisters kindly, he looses TV time, or computer time. 
When our daughter misbehaves in a store, she misses out on the next errand. 

So much of it is about consistency.

Some families find success using a PRIVILEGE CHART.
Take pictures (or draw pictures) of the thing's your child can't live without. Your child looses one privilege starting from least favorite to most favorite for misbehaving or talking back. This will change as their interests and ages change. For younger children it is probably toys, treats, and TV. When they get older it will be time with friends, curfews, cell phones, car privileges, etc. 

Other specific ideas:
  • If your child is rude to someone, talks back- insist they apologize. If they are to young, have them draw an apology picture. Sometimes even if they apologize a written letter is also appropriate. 
  • If your child talks back when they have friends over, or mistreats a friend-send the friend home. This is a powerful one. 
  • If your child is rude or mean to other children-have them do something nice for that person, or take them to serve others. 
  • If your child uses bad manners-have them practice good manners. 10 times is a good amount. This could be chewing with their mouths closed, saying please and thank you etc. 
  • If your child refuses to stay in time out-add another minute. Add a minute twice and then start taking away privileges. 
  • If your child gets out of the "chair"-put them right back in it. 
  • If you pay an allowance for chores in your home, and your child does not do their chores-Don't pay the allowance. That's final. You can also have someone else do the child's chore and the pay comes out of the delinquent child's allowance. 
  • If you don't pay for chores and your child is not doing what they are asked-they have to choose an extra chore from a list you create. If they still don't do it-lose of privilege. 
  • If your child won't do their homework-they loose privileges. For a child to do their homework alone in their room, they need to prove that they can stay on task when left alone. Otherwise, they need to do homework "in public."
All that said, it really comes down to the child and what will work with them. Trial and error will help you understand each child. Always stay calm, cool and collected. Be in charge and be confident. BE CONSISTENT and don't give up. A bad day doesn't mean all is lost. There will be another time to be strong and enforce consequences. Stick with it. And always always always follow the reprimand with an increase in LOVE. Always. 


Family Volley


  1. We have realized that Asher is too much like me and no punishment works. Plus, we really don't like spanking 1- because it doesn't work 2- because it is counter productive. Asher can't live without his cars/trucks, the firestation around the corner, and baby marshmallows. Saturday I told him to leave the eggs alone in the shopping cart and he still poked his finger in and got yolk everywhere. I told him that now he didn't get any baby mallows until the next day. He asked for some throughout the day, but I told him no. He was finally like, "Sorry egg!" Sometimes it is so hard not to crack up, but he will think twice before losing his baby mallows again. We also put the cars up on the fridge or don't drive by the firestation when necessary.

  2. That is a great success story, and taking away the toys and the treats is THE punishment. You quickly begin to understand what means the most to your kids and what privileges they loose when they misbehave.
    Love the baby marshmallows.

  3. Thanks for the ideas. I feel like I'm always threatening to take away this or that, and it's getting annoying. I'm not a fan of time outs. I do like natural consequences and something immediate. I do need to come up with something for name calling (lots of baby around here) and hitting and tell them what will happen and be consistent. It's hard work.
    Thanks again!

  4. I know, we don't like time outs either, and the threatening gets old. Instead of threatening, do it and eventually you wont have to threaten any more. It might take a little time, but it will change.

    Also, don't call it time out if you don't want to. We don't. But I do have to send our daughter to her room every now and again.

  5. This couldn't have come at a better time! The 9 year old I nanny has been struggling with following directions, being respectful, throwing temper tantrums, and reverting back to childish behavior - all because of piano (piano is almost the only time he ever acts out.) Yesterday he Tried to refuse to do piano - which he knows is not an option. Once we were finished and he had calmed down we made a written list of daily expectations and consequences if those expectations are not met. For example - poor effort during piano = no playdates/outings. He responds better to a reward system, so I also included daily "points" if he follows through with the requirements, but at the same time I want him to understand that video games and free time with toys are privileges, not rights. I completely agree that consistency is key! Do you have any other advice or thoughts?

  6. the other day i was swimming at my sister's house. her 10 y.o. had lost the privilege of joining us because he had failed to behave in the pool while family was over a few days prior, despite being talked to before about expected behavior. when he started to whine about how he wanted to swim, my sis said "i want you to swim too, i don't like not having you sit there, but you knew the consequence for your behavior and did it anyway." very powerful!

  7. Nichole, what a great story. Love it. There is so much power in being consistent and following through. And it makes life easier on parents in the long run.

  8. Caroline, what a success story. And great training for when you are raising your own children. Helping him understand that his toys and video games are privileges is very important. On top of that, it is key that you are emphasizing there are expectations, and consequences when those expectations are not met. It teaches him that he is accountable for his actions. It also teaches him what happens when we choose poorly. I love to hear that you are having success. The strategies really do work, if we will stick with them. You are proof of that.

  9. We have a time-out stool for my oldest son, (he is only 20 months old, but he's a really smart one, does naughty things completely on purpose, and definitely understands the consequence of having to sit on the stool). We tell him 'if you do ____ again you will get time out' and he usually shakes his head 'no' and chooses not to.


Hi Hi! It always makes my day to hear what you have to say. Let's keep this conversation going. Thank you for your comments. Don't want to leave a comment here, email me at blog.familyvolley@gmail.com.

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