Always Stay Consistent with Consequences Earned | Teaching Self-Government

Always Stay Consistent with Consequences Earned

Grumpy girl

"Yesterday my 8 year old was grumpy when asked to do something, so he earned a negative consequence.  I asked him to choose a job from the job jar. I explained that the job would help him change his heart.  He then got very cheerful and said he was sorry for being grumpy… and wanted to be allowed to not do the job because he had changed (after all, he reasoned, the attitude was the reason for the extra job). Then I had to talk about how there are consequences to actions that must be carried out because of the family rules. He did the job, but I felt that I did not explain very well why the consequence had to be done. Is it just a matter of time for him to learn cause and effect? How would you explain this to a child?"

Dear Mother,

Because your son was able to change his attitude so quickly, it's obvious he's on his way to self government. By choosing to switch emotions so quickly, he was governing himself. After changing his attitude, he went into negotiation mode. This is a normal response for someone who is new to learning how to control his own behaviors.

I hope that when he negotiated, it was similar to disagreeing appropriately. And if he did disagree appropriately, I hope you praised him a lot. If he didn't disagree appropriately, then I would say that he didn't accept the consequence that he chose. Make sure you look at that when he goes into negotiation mode. If my child starts negotiating before he's calm, I simply say, "You should disagree appropriately" or, "It sounds like you want to disagree appropriately." Then the child will automatically disagree appropriately instead of try to negotiate.

As you stay consistent with consequences earned, your son will stop trying to negotiate out of his consequences.

To "corrective teach" this situation, I would say, "Quinton, just now you didn't follow instructions. I told you to _________, and you chose to be grumpy [I would explain exactly what he does when he's grumpy so that the knows what to change.] What you should have done was look at the person, keep a calm voice, and calm face, say, 'OK,' complete the task, and check back. When you chose not to follow instructions, you earned to do an extra job from the job jar. When you realized that you earned a negative consequence, you immediately changed your attitude. This is fantastic! This shows me that you're getting really close to being in complete control of your emotions and behaviors. Now the only thing you have to do is remember that every time you choose not to say, 'OK,' or ask to disagree appropriately, you'll be choosing to earn a negative consequence so that you don't have to wait until you earn the consequence to remember. When you can choose to respect your parents and say, 'OK' to an instruction that you would rather not do, then you show me how mature you are. When you can say, 'OK,' or disagree appropriately all the time, then you will probably get to do lots of the things you want to do, because we know we can trust you to make good choices."

If my son negotiated with me about earning and extra chore because he chose to change his attitude immediately following earning the consequence, I would reply like this:

"I'm glad that you chose to change your attitude right now, because then you will be happier all day. Isn't it great to have that kind of control over your own feelings? I want to explain to you why you still need to follow through with the consequence you earned, even though you're happy now." 

"In the book 'Little Britches,' Ralph makes a bad choice and has to haul railroad ties from the gulch as a consequence, remember? [I would use this example because this is my son's favorite book.] Ralph is sorry for his bad decision the second his father learns about it, and he feels sorry every day that he has to haul those railroad ties. Because his father gave him the opportunity to work as his consequence, he never made the same bad choice again. He learned to stop the impulse to make that bad decision before he chose wrong again because he knew that choosing to earn negative consequences put him farther away from being the man he wanted to be." 

"If I allow you to talk me out of allowing you to follow through with the chore you earned for making your wrong decision, you'll miss the opportunity to feel sorry for what you did; sorry enough to decide never to make the same mistake again. I'm not really concerned with how you behave as a child as much as I am concerned how you'll be as a man. Men know that if they don't go to work, their families don't eat. And if they're dishonest at work, or don't do what is expected of them, they'll loose their jobs. For you to be that kind of a man, you must get the opportunity to feel really sorry when you choose wrong. These extra chores are a gift to you. You only have to do extra chores for wrong mistakes now. In a few years, you'll fall on your face if you make mistakes. Let yourself be sorry, and choose to never make the same mistake twice, and you'll not only have a strong heart but also become a successful MAN."

This example is a little longer than I usually respond. But once in a while it's good to give a little extra vision by using an example that your child is familiar with. 

Teaching our children isn't really about if they know how to modify their behaviors to please us. Instead, it's about our children choosing correctly because they know that good choices make them happy and bad choices make them sad. 

Your son obviously thinks that mastering himself is about what he looks like to you. That's a great start. But the teaching is about what he thought about you and the situation before he realized he messed up. 

Stay consistent, and he'll soon learn how to judge the situation before he chooses wrong. Pre-teach him whenever possible, as well, so that he sees himself successfully problem solving on a regular basis. In other words: "I'm going to give you an instruction..."  You might have been inconsistent in the past, and this taught him that he could get out of things by quickly changing his old behavior. Your new consistency will stop this subconscious thought process. 

Sounds like a smart boy. He'll be a great man some day!

Nicholeen :)

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