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Logical consequences to teach responsibility

Logical consequences work with children because they are designed to help the child take responsibility, rather than blame you as the evil gatekeeper of their destiny. A child who learns how to take responsibility for his or her own behavior will learn to be self-motivated, independent and can make good choices when you aren’t even there.YouthZone staff use the four steps of logical consequences to attract positive results every day. For example, parenting instructors use them in their classes (this is the core of Positive Parenting) and coaching; while case managers, counselors and youth coaches incorporate them in a variety of ways as they work with kids. In fact, we know that the four R’s are effective, since 76 percent of kids entering YouthZone’s court programs never re-offend. The recipe for effective logical consequences must incorporate the following ingredients:1. Respect must to be given to your child, while inviting him to give as much of his own input as possible in deciding what the consequence might be. Creating a list together of possible consequences with your child (no idea gets to be wrong while brainstorming) is a way to show the child that you are respecting their ideas. Saying things that cause the child to feel fear, guilt, or shame should be avoided; he or she will view the consequence as a punishment, and they will target their anger or hurt at you. 2. The consequence must be reasonable. Harsh consequences will cause the child to focus on being angry with you instead of focusing on making things right. For example, grounding a teen for a month because they were out past curfew can set up a situation for frustration in your home for both you and your child. Remember, a day in the life of a child (especially a teen) can feel like a week, or even a month. A couple of days with no privileges can have even more impact on a teen than a month of grounding.3. The consequence should be related to your child’s mistake. For example, if he makes a mess, he cleans it up. If he steals something, he replaces it or pays the victim back in some way. If he says something hurtful, he apologizes. 4. The final ingredient of logical consequences is to teach your child to take responsibility for his own actions, not to make him “pay” for a mistake. In fact, the consequences can even be fun and still teach your child valuable lessons. Don’t be tricked into thinking that just because your child chooses his own punishment that it is OK to use it. Sometimes your child may select a consequence that is too harsh, and they need your help to make it more reasonable. Now that you have the four ingredients for logical consequences, give them a try! Remember to use them all when coming up with a consequence, for they are each important in helping your child be successful in learning from their mistakes and still feeling good about themselves. Shawn Stevenson, MSW, is a youth and family specialist at YouthZone.


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