Wednesday, November 09, 2016

A Simple Discipline Tool: The Behaviour and Conseqence List

What do you do when your child is hitting his sibling in the back of the van and using words that he knows he is not allowed to?  You tell him to stop. Nothing. You yell at him to stop. Nothing.  You throw out consequence after consequence and suddenly he's never going to another birthday party again and there are no electronics for the next year and everyone is stressed.  Clearly there is a lot going on that needs to be dealt with (and we need an extra row in our van).

Last year I went to a presentation by Vanessa LaPointe where she talked about the importance of boundaries and likened it to the guard rails on the Pattullo Bridge.  If you are familiar that bridge, you KNOW how important the railings on the bridge are to making you feel safe.  Kids need to know the rules of the home just like I need to know the rules of my workplace.

Right now I am reading several parenting books and they each cover the topic of making consequences to behaviours known.

Have you discussed the main values of your home and then decided what happens if they are not followed?  

We've always put everything under the umbrella of respect and if they don't abide by it, the child heads to Time Out to think and then we discuss it together.  Well, this works for two of our kids. What do we do when Time Out does absolutely nothing because they don't care about it and can't actually stop and think about what they are doing?  When your child struggles with emotional regulation, you can threaten everything under the sun in a moment of high stress and it won't make a difference at all. And then what? You have to follow through with whatever crazy consequences you threatened them with.

 In Tough Guys and Drama Queens it is recommended to list up to 10 rules for your home based on family values.  Then, determine 10 things that your child likes and line it up with a rule. For example: If they lie, they lose the TV for the day.  This should be done with the child so that they are aware of the consequences and have agreed to them.

We spent an hour together over the weekend putting together five behaviours that are not acceptable for our home that we have been struggling with: lying, swearing/rude responses, physical aggression, not listening, and complete meltdown with screaming (yes, we are far from perfect).  The consequences range from losing electronic privileges to no token for the day (they normally get one Chuck E Cheese token per day...another story but it works) to having to write out a verse on lying (so this one is not a "like" but hopefully a learning experience).   It is recommended NOT to put a special comfort item on the consequence list as self-soothing is important.

Our list is written out and posted in our kitchen.  It's there for everyone but really it's for the child that struggles the most.  Just a few days in and this is the most successful we have been to date.  Our son is able to stop and think in the moment.  I know it won't be perfect as there are several consequences doled out each day but it is such an improvement.  We can continue to update the list as different behaviours arise, but for now, it appears to be working.

Now a list of  behaviours and consequences are a great start but to further work at the heart of the issue there are several other factors to consider.  In No More Meltdowns by Jed Baker, various aspects of the meltdown are considered. During a meltdown is when we often experience the yelling, swearing, and aggression.

What are the triggers that cause your child to misbehave or have a meltdown? 

It could be a lack of physical exercise, overestimation (lights, sounds, visuals), boredom, low blood sugar levels, fatigue, difficulty of the task etc.  If you are unsure, record when the meltdowns occur and see if there is a pattern.  The before and after school portion of our day is high stress for our son and so we have allowed for more time in the morning to get ready alongside visual reminders and have provided space to unwind after school (usually it's the trampoline – oh, how I love that trampoline). 

What can your child do to self-calm? 

Often kids who struggle with maintaining their cool don't know HOW to calm down. It could be music, deep breathing, cuddling with a special comfort item, watching TV, jumping on a trampoline, reading, drawing, being held – talk to your child about what makes them feel calm and safe.

Overall, we need to realize that we will all have challenging parenting situations to deal with at some point.  This does not mean that we are incompetent, it just means that our kids need new skills and so do we.  One thing Jed Baker talks about is accepting and appreciating our children as they are; see their struggle and come alongside them–this will help us stay calmer.  If we see it as outright defiance rather than a lack of skills, it is much harder to maintain our cool. Relationship over authority.

Parenting is hard.  Over the past year, Gary and I have struggled to present a unified front as we really weren't sure how to approach parenting in certain situations when what worked for some kids didn't work for the others.  It felt like nothing we were doing was helping.  The list of behaviours and consequences is a giant step in the right direction and I recommend it–now we are all on the same page. Guard rails are in place.  I should probably add that the kids have a swear jar for me–this is so embarrassing but $1 goes into the family Tim Hortons Fund every time I swear.  It's currently empty in case you're wondering but if you see us indulging on donuts over on Instagram, you know why.

What do you think?  Do your kids know the family rules?  Are the consequences clearly laid out?  I'd encourage you to discuss it.



  1. Anonymous10:24 AM

    There was lots of great stuff in here and I think we'll probably end up with a similar list but a swear jar for you? Awesome-sauce. - Ali

    1. #keepingitreal! We all have a struggle or five ;)

  2. This is great! Glad you were able to find some good strategies from the books you're reading.

  3. Anonymous11:27 AM

    We've been having the same struggles at our house. We have three boys, aged 6, 4.5 and 2 years old. I think that I've been struggling to find good consequences for the bad behaviour. We rarely watch tv or eat sweets. Taking away toys doesn't seem to help either since they just find something else to play with. What kind of consequences do you use? Any suggestions? Especially dealing with stealing toys from one another, which usually results in hitting and pushing. They just don't listen to one another (or us!)

    1. What are the things that each child loves (other than a comfort item)? Ours are things that our son loves like Wii, TV, etc. I haven't taken away the trampoline because that's important for his overall health. Is there something special that they are looking forward to? Twice a year we go to Chuck E Cheese and they can lose tokens with aggressive behaviour.

    2. Melanie3:47 AM

      I didn't read the book however we have 5 children of our own and have raised 2 more teens when they needed some stability in their lives. I'm down to the last 3 teens in the house. Consequences do not always have to be 'take away privilege' strategy - albeit that's good. I've used a chore strategy as well - aside from your 2 year old, your older boys can unload the dishwasher, wipe the kitchen counters, tidy up the shoe area, take out garbage, clean up after the family pet. I would make these 'extra' on top of their typical chores so perhaps an extra chore as I hope your boys already contribute to the functioning of the household in whatever fashion you've laid out. The approach I used for this included phrases such as ' my time has had to be spent dealing with your fighting/lying/fill in the blank so now I need you to contribute your time to helping with whatever the chore is'. This is a matter of fact type conversation or a list - not delivered with anger.

    3. I think that's a great idea, Melanie! Love hearing from parents on the "other end" of this--thank you!

  4. If I have kids one day I feel like I will need to read back on all your parenting advice!