I have to admit that I’ve always been a big fan of having a discipline system in place. Shooting from the hip in the heat of the moment was just too subjective based on your mood, emotions, or, let’s face it, how much sleep you got the night before. By having a plan, no matter how you feel in the moment you have a clear cut way to address behavior in a calm and reasonable fashion.
As my kids grew older, the way I addressed discipline had to grow and change with them. This means that we had many ways to reward and consequence behavior over the years. My kids are now all grown “adults” with the youngest turning 19 this year and they would be quick to tell you which of those systems they liked (rewards) and which were not their favorite (consequences).
Based on my experience, here are a few things you may want to consider before deciding on a reward/consequence system for your kids.
- Personalize It. Your kids are unique individuals. Therefore what works for someone else may need some tweaking before it will be effective with your kids. Also, age and maturity plays a factor in how you should approach your system. If you have a wide age range, you may need different systems for younger kids and second one for the older group.
- Balance It. If you are only about consequences, your kids will get weary of it all. Motivate them with a system that rewards good behavior as well. Oh, and make sure you follow through on those rewards or you will lose credible… and your system will break down quickly.
- Be Consistent with It. If you don’t commit to the system, don’t expect your kids to either. If you are very intentional about your consistency, within a few weeks it will be habit for both you and them. It’s also important to hold your ground with a single warning. Getting into an argument with a 5 year old is not only impossible to win (and you will look and feel ridiculous), but it also breaks down your entire system. One warning – then apply the consequence. Period. No exceptions.
- Keep It Simple. If it’s complicated or requires a lot of policing on your part, it just won’t survive the first week. Post the rules and tracking system in a high traffic area so everyone is clear on what is expected and where they stand.
- Customize It. Write down the three most important things where your kids really need some work. Then build the system around revising that specific behavior. For example, if you want them to be more respectful then have both a reward and a consequence in the system built around behaviors that demonstrate respect. Don’t try and create perfect children overnight. Pick and choose carefully where you want to see change then really focus in on those behaviors. Once you have some success you can redirect focus to other areas.
- Create Buy In. Make sure your spouse is on the same page and understands what you are trying to accomplish. Better yet, make them part of the development process. If they do not understand the system, the kids will quickly learn they have the means to circumvent it. Furthermore, providing the kids some input to consequences will give them little to argue with when they are facing those same consequences later.
Your next step will now be to find, tweak, and/or develop a system of rewards and consequences that will work for your family. In upcoming blogs, I will share specifics on some of the most successful systems I have used with my family.