The Fine Art of Consequences – Part I
–By Julie Beem A mother called me a while back. “What consequence can I give her?” she started, “She just won’t behave at school and the teacher keeps sending home notes. The only thing I can think of, the only thing she seems to enjoy is going to our church’s Wednesday night events. If I take this away, will she understand and start behaving?” Hmmm…this type of consequence makes logical sense in typical parenting world. We see our friends do this and we probably experienced it as children. Get in trouble at school, and you get in MORE trouble at home. We even hear today’s parents being chided for NOT enacting a “punishment” as a way to reinforce the teacher’s authority. Yet for our children impacted by trauma and struggling with attachment and relationships, such consequences are tricky. “Do you know what she’s doing at school, and, more importantly, WHY she’s doing it?” I asked. “Is what’s happening at school because of her developmental trauma challenges? How is the school handling it?” I ask these questions because giving our children at-home consequences for things that happen in school almost never works, for three main reasons:
- too much time has passed for them to make the cause-and-effect connection
- you cannot leverage your relationship with your child in that way, nor do you want to damage whatever connection you have
- it might hurt us, the parents, as much or more than it affects them, our kids!