Episode 27

What consequences should I be using on my child?

April 18, 2022

[Kyle]: Today we have an interesting topic! We're going to talk about consequences. What do we do with them? Do we need to like, keep giving our kids consequences left and right? I mean, if I’m not spanking them, if I’m not putting them in time out, surely I’ve got to use consequences. Well, Sara and I, today are going to talk about other ways to see consequences, ways in which you handle situations you don't even need to use them or impose them at all. So, look forward to having that discussion with you today. 

[Kyle]: Hello and welcome to episode 27 of The Art of Raising Humans. I'm Kyle.

[Sara]: And I’m Sara.

[Kyle]: And today we want to talk to you about consequences.

[Sara]: Yes

[Kyle]: It is a common question that comes up a lot in changing parenting, but before we get to that, I want to remind you to please go on to the podcast, wherever you're listening to it, and find a way to give us a rating. So, in a lot of these places you can give us a five-star rating, would be phenomenal. If you have questions or other topics you'd like us to discuss, go on and throw that there as well. We've got a great website connected to our practice called parentinglegacy.com and there you can go there and you can also find other blogs we've written and other trainings we've done.

[Kyle]: So, lots of great resources, but today, it's taken us a long time to get to this one, Sara, but this is a real common question when people are trying to move away from something like spanking or something like, even timeouts, you know? Is they're trying to ask what is the consequences then that I give my kid?

[Sara]: Yeah, yeah. I think even in my own journey when I thought “okay, all right. So, if I’m not--” If I’m saying “I want to do more than just the timeouts” or the-- You know, “I want to do more than that”. Okay. So, I thought I studied really hard because I worked with all these families and I would-- And I honestly, I was working to find the perfect way to consequence a child, you know? Thinking “if you do something wrong there has to be a consequence”.

[Kyle]: It has to be.

[Sara]: There just has to be this consequence you give the kid or they're never going to learn to not do it again and so, I even remember just studying and reading and trying so hard to come up with just the right tools, the right consequences to be able to hand over to the parents I was working with, right?

[Kyle]: Yeah, because you feel like you have to give them something. If you're saying “let's move away from spanking, let's even move away from time-outs”.

[Sara]: Or a punishment, right?

[Kyle]: Punishment of some kind, yeah, then there's got to be something else, you got to do something else, yeah.

[Sara]: Sort of like movement into the consequences and this pressure and also, this you're trying to do a really good job, you want to help this child be successful and they need to learn-- My thought was they need to learn this in life, you know? If I don't do my job well, I’m going to get fired.

[Kyle]: Yeah, there's always a consequence, yeah.

[Sara]: So, if I teach them that now, then they grow up into the adult world, they'll be able to be successful.

[Kyle]: Yeah. So, I think a lot of times when parents hear us say “let's move away from spanking or punishment and timeouts”, these kinds of punishment type things, they will assume there's still going to be consequences, okay? And I think a lot of that comes from, there is a real popular parenting style called “Love and logic”, okay? So, Love and Logic is a style that's very much based on consequences. Now, he does emphasize empathy as well in that process, but there is a lot of discussion about there being a consequence. So, typically the kid does something and the way the kid is going to learn is, there's a consequence imposed upon that kid, right?

[Sara]: Right

[Kyle]: And so, the thought is “we need to-- There needs to be some kind of consequence that the parent does to the kid” and if they don't, then the thinking is “the kid just gets away with murder”, right? There's nothing, the kid’s not learning.

[Sara]: Yeah, the kid will never learn. Right, they're just gonna think “well, yeah, just do it again because, what? There was no negative effect, right? There was no consequence, so I’ll just do that thing again”.

[Kyle]: So, the point of giving the consequence in these parents’ mind is what? What's the point of it?

[Sara]: I think, what I said, you know, just to prevent the behavior from happening again and to raise a successful child.

[Kyle]: So, like an example would be you speed, your consequence is you get a speeding ticket, right?

[Kyle]: So, there's a lot of different kinds, you go outside in the cold, you didn't wear your jacket, the consequence is you're freezing cold, right? So, in life, there's all these types of ways of thinking that are kind of trained in our brain. I know they were-- Yours and my brain and most parents we talked to, their brain too. They can't conceive of this being different like, this idea of something not being done to the kid like, especially when you're raised in a school system. I know you were homeschooled, but I went to public school and even when I was a public-school counselor, there's always a consequence. So, the kid says something mean to another kid and they get caught doing it, there's a consequence.

[Sara]: And I think there is-- It is a world system, it's not even United States or Australia, it's a world system that does work a lot by a punishment consequence, you know, to some degree. Just like you said, if I speed, I get a ticket, if I’m caught, I get a ticket. You know, there is sort of this idea of “this is the world system operates that way”. A lot of times!

[Kyle]: Humans have to work that way, yeah.

[Sara]: Right. So, we're just teaching our kids that, so hopefully--

[Kyle]: Preparing them for that, yeah.

[Sara]: They'll be able to avoid a lot of that.

[Kyle]: I think that's the fear, Sara. If I don't do this, then the kids are going to grow up thinking they don't have consequences and then they're going to get arrested and thrown in jail for sure. you know?

[Sara]: Because we love our kids and we want to help them do well in life, that's what we're here for.

[Kyle]: Now, the fallacy in the thinking. So, where that kind of thinking falls apart is, I’ve gotten several speeding tickets and, do I still speed?

[Sara]: Yeah, and prison systems see a lot of repeat offenders.

[Kyle]: Yes, the repeat offenders. If you want to look it up, look up the research, people who leave prison-- Actually, a lot, a high percentage. I don’t remember what it is, but it's somewhere like 70% to 80% of the rate of them getting arrested in the future again. So, it's not like they come out reformed. Like the point of the judicial system isn't to reform behavior, it isn't to make it better, it is to just punish the bad behavior you did, you know?

[Kyle]: So, I personally had a lot of ex-prisoners in groups I did for drug and alcohol groups and there's horrible things going on in prison and part of us says “well, good! It should be a horrible experience”, but they weren't getting better like, many of them weren't trying to improve, they were learning actually how to do what they did better.

[Sara]: Yeah. So, what I think you and I's journey is “okay, okay. Well, let's leave punishment a little bit. Great, consequences, okay”. Wait, consequences, there's problems there too where we're learning that we can consequence and punish and I think everyone knows kids like this, you come up with a better punishment or consequence, you come up with an even better one and the kid just keeps upping it and it and we see if we stop and think about it, a lot of adults sit around sharing stories about the horrible things they did as kids and the consequences they got and they still did more horrible things.

[Sara]: And so, you and I, you know, part of our journey was going “huh. Okay, wait, consequences is the magic tool that's going to make my kid a successful adult?”

[Sara]: So, we had to step back and go “now what?”

[Kyle]: Well, we go back and look at the research. Does the research say my kid becomes a successful kid because they're always afraid something bad is going to happen to them if they don't--?

[Sara]: There's this external looming thing.

[Kyle]: And going to your point, Sara, is we've seen kids as young as 10, who like everything has been taken out of their room. Consequences have been given out the wazoo, they have just a bed on the floor and the kid is still misbehaving, right?

[Sara]: Yeah. School systems have gone all the way to kicking them out of the school and the kid goes to a different school and still does-- Where we see the failure of the consequence where it isn't helping these kids. We see these kids spiraling further down, not getting better.

[Kyle]: Well, even take it to where the kids’ behavior does change, Sara. So, like a kid who maybe is getting poor grades and then because of the consequence, they got better grades. Now, the problem with that thinking is, the kid only got the good grades because of the consequence. They didn't get the good grades because they really wanted to get the good grades, they just didn't want the bad thing to happen. There's many times I’ve talked to kids who in-- I’m trying to help them see that their behavior is their choice and it's not something that's being-- They're not being made to do things, but it's very hard when a kid has grown up in a home with a lot of punishment and consequences, because the kid thinks any good thing they've done, is only out of fear of the consequences that will happen if they don't.

[Sara]: Yeah. So, I’ve reached these goals of good grades or whatever, but it's really been just because I’m avoiding this thing. I’m not actually going towards the good goals; I’m actually trying to go away from this bad thing. That's a very different way to live life. Am I going towards things or am I just trying to dodge all the other stuff?

[Sara]: How do I want my child to live their life, moving towards this successful thing in life intentionally on their own volition? Something from inside of them wants that? Or because they're avoiding all the bad things and being pushed that way from external control?

[Kyle]: Like, I’m even thinking how many kids who've gotten straight A's or A's and B's and I’ll say “wow, that's awesome! You must be proud of yourself!” and say “well, I just did it so I wouldn't get grounded” or “I did it so my parents wouldn't yell at me”. Right?

[Sara]: Yeah, I will lose my phone if I get a C.

[Kyle]: Exactly, yeah. So, even when they've made these choices that the parents see as “good choices”, they made them only in reaction to the bad that will happen if they don't make those choices. So, then the kid doesn't even get to take credit for the fact they made that choice.

[Sara]: And it distracts from the good feeling they could have. You know, hopefully if you get an A or B you're thinking “Wow! You know? I worked really hard, I got that A or B, that's awesome! I feel--”. But honestly, all that is sort of muted or distracted from because they're like “oh, good, I get to keep my phone”.

[Sara]: So, you lose that internal--

[Kyle]: And they’ll even say it, “I only did that because I was gonna lose my phone”.

[Kyle]: “I only did that because I wasn't gonna get some time with my friend if I didn't”, right?

[Sara]: So, they missed the true reward--

[Kyle]: This intrinsic thing.

[Sara]: Of feeling “I did this, I worked hard and now I can feel good and be proud of my accomplishment”.

[Kyle]: Yeah. So, what Sara and I are trying to say and I know it's kind of a-- We're trying to in this episode, trying to really condense something that is a bigger conversation.

[Sara]: It is, it took us a really long time.

[Kyle]: And so, we're trying to walk you through just some of the logical errors that come into play, when you have the thinking that consequences change behavior, okay? For instance, let's go back to the speeding thing. I do like to drive fast and I do typically speed if I want to get somewhere and I know a lot of listeners do as well, but those places where I got tickets, I don't speed there and these like, little mile stretches where I’ve gotten tickets before, I’m very conscious about not speeding in those places, right? So, consequences are effective in changing behaviors in that way, but it didn't make me a driver who drove, you know, slower, it just made me more conscientious of getting caught, right? And so, that's what a lot of kids end up stumbling into, is they become better at hiding the thing, they come better disguising it, better at making sure-- I know for some kids, they just get better not telling you that that's a problem in their life, because they will tell me “I don't know what consequences they're gonna give me” and even if the parent wasn't going to, the parent will say “I wasn't gonna--”, but the kid's been trained that anything they do that might displease you, there's got to be a consequence imposed.

[Kyle]: I’ve even had parents say, Sara, where the school has done something and this is real common. The kids done something at school, the school has done “consequences”, something bad has happened to them and then the parents feel compelled to do something again on top of that and they feel like if they aren't doing that, they're being irresponsible parents.

[Kyle]: And I’ll try to tell them like “if consequences work, why not just let the school do it?” and then when the kid comes home, just say “wow, that sucks. I’m sorry that happened”. You don't need to add on top of it like, when does it end? You know? Like, how many consequences the kid need before eventually leads to positive behavior? You know? So, we want to just set the stage of just like, when we're talking about-- Many times there's a misconception, we're talking about “hey, let's move away from fear-based approaches with kids”. Like, kids actually respond better with support, encouragement, love, guidance, discipleship. They actually learn and grow better, they become self-controlled human beings that way, which is what you really want and that fear-based punishment doesn't do that, but then there's this misconception that “oh, well, we just need to, like Love and Logic would say, just come up with some logical consequence that will then change the behavior”. We're not saying that either, but we're also not saying there aren't consequences.

[Sara]: Right

[Kyle]: There are--

[Sara]: “This is not permissive”. Well, then you just, whatever the kid does.

[Kyle]: Very much not so, we're actually raising-- What I want to do is raise the dialogue and the awareness of what the consequences truly are. They are not what I am imposing upon the kid, they are not what the school did to the kid. There are bigger consequences at play that the kid doesn't even see, because we are imposing other ones on top of them.

[Sara]: Yeah, yeah, everything you do in life is gonna yield a consequence.

[Kyle]: Positive and negative.

[Sara]: Yeah, and if we can raise our children's awareness to “you did this, now what's happening?”. Good or bad, you wanna you want them to see all of it.

[Kyle]: Typically, it's a mixed bag.

[Kyle]: Typically, a kid will say “well, good, because I kind of got that grade even though I cheated, that was good”, you know?

[Sara]: Yeah, yeah, and it could be “I stayed up late hanging out with my friend, now I’m tired and I had fun”.

[Sara]: You know, but you but then your child, if they are actually aware of what's happening because of their decisions, then it informs future decisions, they learn how to do that.

[Kyle]: Can I give a quick example at school, Sara? There was one time as a school counselor, a little first grader got into a little argument with another first grader and he ended up like, pushing that kid and then when the teacher tried to intervene, he yelled at the teacher and then the teacher said “well, I’m going to call your mom”, right? It seems like a real logical approach to like, school or parents, like you slowly upped the con. First the teacher tried to help, the kid was resistant, so now we've got to threaten, call your mom and make-- Somehow that's going to control your behavior. Kid went running out of the classroom, because to the kid the consequence of calling mom, was he's going to get spanked when he gets home. So, that's the consequence.

[Kyle]: So, when he came running into my office, he was very dysregulated and I wanted to help him, but he just kept screaming “don't call my mom! I’m going to get spanked! Don't call my mom! I’ll be good!”. So, he was very much the whole fear of the consequence that was going to happen, was not allowing him to actually regulate himself and then actually resolve the conflict that happened, and in all reality, the consequence isn't getting spanked by your mom, the consequence is he hit his friend and his friend now is going to go tell her mom or his mom and then, the kids saw all that happen, they saw you freak out in class. The consequence of that is they're going to be less likely to trust you and want to play with you in the future.

[Kyle]: And so, there was so many ripples that happened, that we weren't even addressing, all we were doing was addressing the “bad behavior the kid did”, we're going to give him a punishment and then we're going to think everything's resolved, and it's not, and instead if that kid wasn't afraid of that consequence, I could have brought the other friend in. We could have dealt with the reality of the real consequence, which was it hurt his friend and his friend wanted to make it better, but the kid wasn't even open to that because he was so scared of the consequence.

[Sara]: When you don't even know why he hit him.

[Kyle]: Yes! And even-- Yeah, what is the reason behind that?

[Sara]: What happened there? Because it went-- So, the relationship went awry, something went wrong, but to prevent it from going wrong again we need to find out what happened, what was he feeling, what was he thinking, what led to that and so, if we can get back to that, we could prevent him from actually hitting another kid in the future.

[Kyle]: Well, then if you knew that, Sara, if you knew what he was feeling and thinking before the behavior happened, he would understand why that consequence happened. The consequence was him losing control of himself and thinking he had to hit his friend to get what he wanted, that was one of the consequences, right?

[Sara]: Yeah, there are consequences.

[Kyle]: And we want him to know “you don't need to do that when you feel or think that way, you can do something else to make a better consequence happen, that you would rather have happen”, right? Otherwise, the kid is just a victim to all of these consequences. He's a victim to what mom is going to do to when he comes home and I want the kid to know “you're not, you're not a victim to any of it. You actually get to decide the consequences that happen by choosing different behaviors, by managing your feelings better”.

[Sara]: And you could have those conversations, but you couldn't, because he was just thinking about this other consequence. All that was lost, all that learning he could have done in that moment and first graders are very capable of learning all of that, even younger children, but all that was lost for him.

[Kyle]: So, I would argue that when we impose consequences, not-- We're not saying consequences don't happen, they already do, you know? You don't have to impose them, they already happen. So, it's really about using the consequences and just bringing them to light, both positive and negative, which-- You know, Sara, also another honest thing that-- Parents spend so much more time emotionally talking about the negative, they hardly ever, hardly ever point out the positive. Like, all the sweet moments they have with their brother or sister or all the times that they-- The parent has been in a bad place and the kids love coming up, give them a hug, shifted them, right? We don't really talk about those things all that much. About all the kind choices they make, that make a lot of kind consequences, right? So, we typically--

[Sara]: Times that they persist and “you persisted through that hard problem and now, look, you've got an A on that math sheet or something”, you know?

[Kyle]: Yeah, we don't spend a lot of emote-- Because it's not scary, we spend time on the ones that scare us. We spend times on the one that we go “we better stop that or my--”

[Sara]: This is an emergency, our kid's gonna--

[Kyle]: My kid’s gonna become-- He’s gonna get kicked out of school, he's never gonna have friends. These fears dominate our thing and that's why we feel like we have to give consequences. Now, here's the big point I wanna make. When I do that, because we're not gonna solve this whole thing in one podcast, but the goal is to raise kids who take responsibility for their actions and me imposing consequences, typically does not allow that to happen.

[Sara]: Yeah, it kind of rescues them from having to take responsibility.

[Kyle]: Exactly, yeah. Well, like to that kid, he didn't have to take responsibility for hitting his friend.

[Kyle]: All he needed to do--

[Sara]: And go back and--

[Kyle]: Yes, and I’ll tell you, to be honest with you guys, the way that story ended was that kid ended up going home and this was typical, I saw this lot in school. I bet his mom did not want to come home and spank him, I bet his mom had been working all day and just wanted to love her son and good for her, but when she comes home and gets this information, the kid had a lot of time to tell her a story where he was the victim and he did nothing wrong and the parent ended up sending a scathing email to the teacher and how she did not handle that appropriately and so, somebody eventually got punished, somebody eventually got to experience the “consequences” and it was the teacher.

[Kyle]: And I just felt really sad that there was just such a great learning opportunity here for everybody involved, but specifically for the little six-year-old boy, who needed to learn how to manage his emotions and resolve conflict and yet, it was taken from him and instead, it ended up being a conflict between the teacher and the parent, which it never started out that way! It was between two boys in class, you know!? And so, if we're wanting to raise kids who take responsibility for their actions, then I need to step back and stop thinking it's my job to take responsibility for their actions. Because that's exactly what I’m doing, when I think “I’ve got to impose this ingenious creative consequence, that is then going to change my kid’s behavior”. You see, even that line of thinking, Sara, it's a parent saying “I am responsible for my kid's behavior, I need to--” and yet, I’m also saying to the kid “take responsibility”, but the kid doesn't have to because you just did.

[Kyle]: Do you have a great quote I wanted to share?

[Sara]: I did, I was just thinking I wanted to.

[Kyle]: Yeah, I want you to share the quote.

[Sara]: Okay, here it is. “Beneath every behavior, there is a feeling and beneath each feeling is a need and when you meet that need, rather than focus on the behavior, we begin to deal with the cause and not the symptom”. So, that's by Raising Humans Kind.

[Kyle]: Okay

[Sara]: And I just love that because it kind of, we do get distracted by “here's the behavior, we need to go punish that”, instead of going back-- Like this six-year-old boy or whoever it is and going back and say “wow, what led to that behavior?” Let's talk about that, let's address that so that down the road, there'll be something inside the child that's making a different choice.

[Kyle]: Yes, yes, and so, along that, I love that quote too, is what we're saying to do or what we're saying happens, when I focus on consequences it gets my eyes off what my kid really needs to learn, you know? It gets my focus off of that. There's something my kid is needing to learn, whether it's self-control, whether it's assertive communication, whether it's conflict resolution skills, it gets my eyes off the skill that my kid is needing help with and instead, we can-- And I’ve even heard some kids say this, Sara. Ehen a parent starts to shift this way, a parent has been doing consequences for a long time and then they try to shift it to more of a learning discipleship type mode, the kid will almost get annoyed and be like “just give them my consequences”, you know? Because they just want to get it over with.

[Kyle]: They actually have learned to not want to learn from it. They've actually taught themselves that it's basically like, “I do a bad thing, so you do something to me that I don't like and then, bam, it's all done!”

[Sara]: It’s done!

[Kyle]: Yeah, problem solved, right?

[Sara]: No real learning happened.

[Kyle]: No learning happened, no.

[Sara]: Like “I’ll try to avoid that punishment in the future”.

[Kyle]: Yeah, I’m almost thinking about, if you did this in a marriage, Sara, if I had been mean to you, and then you “did a consequence” by not talking to me all night, what did I learn? Like, we didn't resolve anything, right? So, then I go “oh, okay, don't do that again because she'll give me the cold shoulder all night? That's what's going to happen?”.

[Sara]: What led to the behavior, let's talk about that. Let's get to that and then you can make a different behavior choice next time, because you'll have-- You'll have tools, you'll know what to do. This six-year-old would have known how to talk to his friend about what he was upset about, instead of hitting him or go get help from the teacher or something, but all that stuff--

[Kyle]: I think we'll follow up in a different episode, to talk about-- Just a little more in depth is, basically this idea of, you know, what we're wanting to do is use these conflictual moments where we think we need to do something to the kid and instead, use these conflictual moments not to isolate, you know? All these conflicts are opportunities to learn about myself and about my kid, so I want them to be moments where we draw closer together. So, instead of thinking “what do we need to do to our kid?”, “What do we need to do with our kid?”. Like, come alongside them, how can we help support them to where this thing is a moment where we grow closer together, understand each other better and do it better next time, right?

[Kyle]: And just imposing consequences rarely if ever does that, okay? So, I hope you hear from us. We're not saying there aren't consequences, I’m actually saying there's more than you realize.

[Sara]: And we're not saying just “oh, well, a kid does whatever they want”.

[Kyle]: No, we are definitely not saying that and in a further podcast, what I’d like to us to talk about is, ways in which we set boundaries on those behaviors, right? So, to me, when I see the kid failing at a certain skill, maybe we need to put better boundaries on that situation to help that kid be successful, which giving consequences it doesn't feel helpful. Kids don't feel like you're supporting them when you give them the consequence, they just feel like you slapped them on the hand and told them “do it better!”.

[Sara]: Well, it sets up by you versus them.

[Sara]: Which obviously, I mean, [Unintelligible] is gonna break down the relationship, but not bring you closer, and this is-- And I would say if you're a parent, I just know how long it took us, this journey, wrapping our minds around it. It was kind of, it blew my mind when I thought “what!? This is crazy talk!”. But as I worked with families and worked with children and went in this direction, it took a long time and it's a lot. So, I don't know, I just want to encourage parents and if you're thinking about this or this sits well with you, it's a journey and it's a process and that's okay.

[Kyle]: But what I want to add to that though is, I guess part of that process was you and I intentionally in these moments of conflict, thinking “what is the actual consequence here?”

[Kyle]: You know, “what has already happened?”. “We don't actually need to do anything on top of that, what has already happened?”. Right? And then, it happened in us, happened between me and our kid, happened in them, you know, and once I can raise my awareness about that, I have a better understanding of what the needs are in that moment, how I can meet them, okay? So, all together wrapping up this discussion, you know, we just wanted to talk about a misconception that, when we move away from fear-based punishment such as spanking and time-outs and those kind of external control things, we typically tend to land on “well, let's just give consequences” and then the conversation all becomes about “what do we need to do to the kid?”.

[Kyle]: We're trying to raise that conversation, “what do we--? How do we come alongside the kid? What do we need to do with the kid?”, like hand in hand to co-create a better scenario where they're successful next time in that moment, okay? So, I hope this kind of gets your wheels turning, we'd love to hear your comments back. Maybe some of you already made this switch, maybe some of you have had that same misconception and this is like “whoa! What are you talking about!?”. We'd love to hear feedback, whether you want to email us, whether you want to put comments on the podcast thing to, you know, we can follow further. Maybe in-depth questions we can answer about this. We'd love to hear your feedback, okay? So, I hope that got you thinking and I hope you have a wonderful day.

[Sara]: Thank you for listening.