WHEN CONSEQUENCES DON'T WORK, TEACH
Updated: Oct 11, 2022
Clear, well-communicated and consistent logical consequences are an effective parenting tool. But what do you do when your child doesn't meet your expectations repeatedly, despite the consequence?
This can happen with any child, but it is especially common when children have DMDD or ADHD. In those cases, there is a reason your child isn't meeting the expectation, and that reason is almost certainly not laziness, poor character, manipulation, lack of caring, or selfishness. They are not meeting the expectation because they are struggling with something that they can't seem to master.
This thing isn't always obvious to you or even to him. So rather than getting mad or punishing or lecturing on WHY they should meet the expectation, ask questions.
Find out what they are struggling with: is it an attention issue, an organization issue, a sensory issue, a self-control issue, a comprehension issue, fatigue, or something else?
Go into this with a truly open mind. Things that seem obvious to us are not obvious to children and teens. There are many things you do that you think are automatic common sense, but are actually skills you have learned. Usually not having developed one of these skills is at the heart of your child's problems.
I ask my children once each week to gather all the clothes off their floors and bring them downstairs to the laundry room so I can wash them (we haven't yet developed the skill of putting them in the laundry basket -- and yes that is a SKILL that requires much more than physical ability.)
One child always left clothes in the corners. No amount of getting frustrated with him and telling him to make sure he got the clothes in the corners worked. What I did instead one week was go upstairs, take him by the hand, and lead him through the process of picking up his clothes.
"Let's pick up the clothes together today," I said, happily.
We got the laundry basket and picked up all the clothes we could immediately see laying around.
But THEN I said, "Let's look again to check all the corners." I showed him how to move items out of the way, to look under and behind things, to get on the floor and move around so we can see things from different perspectives.
We did this three weeks in a row. And then, success.
More complex issues of repeated disobedience take much longer to identify the problem and solve for. But the answer is not more punishing or lecturing. The answer is usually patient teaching and experimentation. Choose one skill at a time to work on, and stick with it. Over time this approach works and leads to less frustration and greater confidence for your child as he sees his skills build.