Be firm but fair
You’re the first source of knowledge for your kids. It is your job to prepare them for success in the real world. Part of this process means teaching your kids that there are consequences for all of our actions.
You may see your child be friendly to someone and then make a friend. This is a teachable moment where you can show your child that when you are kind and respectful, good things happen. Valuable teachable moments also come about when children do not meet expectations.
If your child fails a test, you can implement consequences. Consequences are most impactful when they have a direct relation to the action. For example, it might not make sense to make your child do the dishes every day for failing a test. Instead, it may be more appropriate to limit free time and increase study time.
This is a good time to teach your child another valuable lesson: we must take responsibility for our actions.
Holding your kids accountable for their actions will teach them to own up to their mistakes in the future. It’s helpful to talk through the reasoning behind these consequences, so your child understands why they are expected to meet expectations, and what happens when expectations are not met.
This prepares kids for the real world, where consequences can be much worse than getting a bad grade in class for not studying.
Addressing your child when she doesn’t meet expectations will help them be more successful in the future, even when she doesn’t like the consequences. It’s valuable to teach your children about real world consequences. We often jump to the negative when we think of the effects of our actions. However, many of our actions have really positive effects.
Provide specific praise when your child does something successful. You don’t have to praise him every time they make their bed, as that is an expectation. However, you could express genuine appreciation when they take initiative and cleans the whole house so that you don’t have to. Being considerate like this benefits your child in the real world.
Giving rewards for positive behavior is more effective than punishment. It feels good to get praise. Happy brain chemicals such as dopamine are released when we receive praise. Our reward center lights up. This leads to a desire to continue doing good things.
The need for kids to receive praise doesn’t mean that you need to overly compliment or coddle them. You don’t need to give praise every day (unless your kid is on a real winning-streak). In fact, giving praise constantly makes it less valuable. Your child may begin to expect praise.
You don’t need to give praise every day, and you don’t need to wait six months between each time you express appreciation for your child’s behavior. Instead, give praise when it’s appropriate.
This type of encouragement is motivating and will help your child believe in their capabilities. The praise you give should be intentional and specific. For example, instead of saying, “You got an A, good job.” You can say, “Wow, I see that you worked very hard to achieve this. You asked for help, and you persevered through the obstacles. Furthermore, you have a strong work ethic.”
Using positive action as a teachable moment leads to more positive actions from your kids. When paired with natural consequences for negative actions, your child will have a better idea of how their actions affect their world and the world of those around him.
Having conversations in these moments is valuable. You can think through your child’s behavior with them. It may even give you a better understanding of why they behaved the way they did.
If your child failed a test, you may have noticed that they had hardly studied. The instinct is to say, “Well, you need to study more.” That’s probably true. However, having a conversation about this could broaden your understanding of a larger issue.
Maybe their math class is really hard to understand, and they feel embarrassed. Fear of failure often leads to less effort. Children are afraid of trying something and failing anyway. Instead, they can put forth little effort and say, “Well, I failed that test because I didn’t study, not because I’m not smart.”
Once you’re able to have a conversation about this issue, you can have a better idea of how to proceed. Instead of punishing your child, you can teach him what to do when they need help. Require that they meet with their teacher once a week or get him a tutor.
Punishing a behavior that a child doesn’t know how to fix can lead to confusion and resentment instead of progress.
Remaining firm but fair requires clear expectations and boundaries. Natural consequences are implemented because that’s how the real world operates. Similarly, outstanding behavior merits positive praise and acknowledgement.
Having a conversation about the consequences of hand can teach both you and your child something new. It can even lead to a better understanding of the needs of your child.