My son Tana and his four friends, affectionately known as the “quint” around our house, spent a lot of time in the Pritchard home. We loved having them around although they were definitely boys! One particular Saturday you could literally see where they had been by the trail they left. The back yard was a wreck where they had been playing. The kitchen was a disaster where they had eaten. Now they were in the basement and I’m sure it was in shambles.
Four of the “Quint” Skyping with the Fifth!
I (David) was upstairs when I heard the sound of elephants running up the stairs in my direction. Tana spoke. “Dad, dad, could you please give us a ride to the YMCA? We want to go play basketball.” Gesturing toward our back yard I said, “You guys have trashed the house this morning. I’ll tell you what, give me 30 minutes in the back yard and I’m happy to give you a ride.”
One of the quint, who shall remain nameless, immediately said, “How about 15 minutes.” I shot back, “How about 45.” I could tell he was about to say something else, when Tana put his hand on his friends chest and said, “Stop! It doesn’t get any better. It only gets worse!”
Occasionally a parent will complain to us about one of their children. “I can’t ground by son because he’s impossible to live with. To which we say bad attitudes don’t get you out of discipline it just makes it worse. We call it compounding consequences. Tana knew if he complained about 30 minutes, the time wouldn’t go down, it would go up.
I know some of you are worried this is going to escalate the confrontation every time. The truth is your kids will get this quickly (like Tana). Especially if you follow these simply steps.
1) Explain compounding consequences away from the moment. When things are calm, teach what will happen the next time they cop an attitude about being disciplined.
2) Make the compounding incremental. In other words when Tana’s friend questioned the 30 minutes I don’t jump to 2 hours with no trip to the YMCA. The point is to make an impression so they stop having an attitude.
3) Don’t be afraid to create a way for them to reverse some of the compounding. If multiple days have been added because of a bad attitude, then consider taking away days as the attitude improves. It should still end up longer or bigger than the original punishment.
Disciplining your kids is never fun. But it can sap the life out of you if it’s always accompanied by a bad attitude. If you want kids that have a good attitude when you discipline them then make sure you incorporate compounding consequences. Have you ever used or experienced “compounding consequences”?