By Jessica Kelley

As a parent it’s easy to get discouraged from energy exhausted into trying to get an obstinate child to “mind” you. After multiple failed attempts for obedience, you can start to give up, and hence give in to your child’s demands, tantrums, and behavior issues.

How does this affect the parent and the home environment? It can lead to marital strain, increased irritability, sibling rivalry, a sense of loss of control, and self-depreciating thoughts.

How can a parent gain ground back on the parenting battlefield?

Consequences vs. Punishment

Start by giving the child consequences instead of punishment. You may wonder why, what is the difference between the two?

What is punishment?

  1. Punishment is action taken to reduce or eliminate an unwanted behavior.
  2. Punishment does not give the child a chance to correct their mistakes nor does it put them in charge of their actions.
  3. Additionally punishment does not offer an alternate desired behavior.

For example, a 6 year old child is grounded from watching My Little Pony for screaming at Mom in the restaurant. This may lead to the child being less likely to scream at Mom in the restaurant however they have not learned how mom would rather have the child speak to her.

What are consequences?

  1. Consequences are a either positive or negative result from the child’s choices, actions, and behavior.
  2. Consequences gives the child a chance to correct their behavior to avoid a negative outcome/consequence.
  3. Consequences give the child responsibility over their behavior, and give them a sense of power.
    1. Power? YES, power. This is a positive way to empower the child with the choice to influence their consequences positively or negatively.

How to implement Consequences

  1. Give them a choice when they are acting out negatively. Example: If you choose to continue to scream (negative behavior), then you choose to sit in time out (negative consequence). If you choose to speak to me calmly and kindly (positive behavior), then you choose to continue sitting with your friends (positive consequence).
  2. Be consistent and follow through. When you set a limit, and give a consequence, following through on your word is key. This shows your child you say what you mean and they can trust what you say.
  3. Give age appropriate and reasonable consequences. A 3 year old child will not comprehend losing TV for the entire day. Nor would it be reasonable to lose the TV for an entire week. However they will comprehend losing one specific TV show for the day.
  4. Let go of what’s not in your control. You cannot make your child change or behave in a certain way. Your consistency in following through with consequences will influence them positively. You are in control of your emotions, so allow your consequences to be about the facts and not get overwhelmed by emotions.
  5. Use “I” Statements. This type of communication is informative vs. explosive. For instance “I will not hold you when you push me in the chest.” vs. “Stop pushing me!”

Remember, the child will often get worse before they get better. This is the child’s way of testing the limits and seeing if they can push you. It is a challenge, but stay strong, be consistent, and support each other as you establish these new boundaries and limits with your child.


Jessicad Kelley Traverse City counselor counseling therapistJessica works in counseling from the desire to help individuals break unhappy and unhealthy cycles. Jessica is a native of Michigan. She started work in counseling from the desire to help individuals break unhappy and unhealthy cycles. Through her occupational experience, she has been able to serve individuals from various cultural and environmental backgrounds, religious beliefs, and various needs for community resources. She has worked with children and families, at risk youth, college students, and adults dealing with issues such as TBI, Homelessness, Depression Counseling, Anxiety, Alcohol/Drug addiction, life transitions, child/parent relationships, relationship conflict, and low self-esteem.

To call Jessica 231-714-0282 ext. 707