How to Use Consequences to Motivate Kids

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By Susan Heckler

All choices in life have consequences, at every age. By definition, what exactly is a consequence?

According to our friend Merriam-Webster, the definition of consequence is:

1: a conclusion derived through logic

2: something produced by a cause or necessarily following from a set of         conditions
3 a: importance with respect to power to produce an effect a mistake of no consequence

b: social importance
4: the appearance of importance

This is perfect word to use for parenting because, in fact, parenting can become a power play with a push and pull going on constantly. Children learn at a very young age that there is a direct relationship between their actions and your reactions. Good behavior leads to good consequences and bad behavior leads to more negative consequences.

They are directly responsible for the consequences they receive. They need to own their responsibility. In the parental role, consequences need to be consistent and immediate or they lose their potency.

One important fact to remember is to focus equally on the positive. As parents, we get wrapped up in negotiating bad behavior and are remiss in positive reinforcement. Good work is assumed but should also be acknowledged. Don’t be stingy with the praise and positive attention, it means a lot to kids.

We all need to establish a relationship of IF/THEN with our children. When they are deciding on a course of action… IF I blow off curfew…THEN I may be grounded.
IF I walk the dog…THEN I won’t have to clean the puddles on the floor.
IF I ace my calc exam…THEN my GPA will go up.

IF I work harder in school…THEN I have a better choice of colleges. IF I drive recklessly…THEN I may lose my driving privileges.
IF I get a job…THEN I will have extra spending money.

Consequences should be appropriate to their age, it should have some meaning to them and their lifestyle choices. Negative ones should act as a deterrent for bad behavior and have relevance to the bad behavior. Justin left his bicycle on the street, so he has no use of it for a week. Sarah had a meltdown in the mall to get attention, Sarah’s meltdown gets ignored so the bad behavior isn’t rewarded with the desired attention.

When it comes to using consequences to motivate kids, you must remember that the reaction can’t be just to get you to stop nagging. The goal is to get them to do what they need to do because it is what they should be doing. This type of child may respond better to the carrot on the stick rather than the threat of taking a carrot away. IF I do my homework first…THEN I can go out to play.

What motivates and inspires them to do what they should be doing? Be the influencer in their life; they will love you for it and you will enjoy watching them reap the rewards of their own great choices!