I have been writing a lot about the equal importance of rewards and consequences in our parenting. To read more please go here: Bill Strong LCSW Denver Therapist for Children and Families.
I recently received an email asking if it’s ever appropriate to remove an earned reward as a consequence. There are times that the reward can be taken away as a consequence, but this can be tricky. I advise parents to be very careful about this. You don’t want to take away something that was “earned” such as a star on a sticker chart, or a special event, toy etc. unless there were conditions placed prior to the reward being granted.
One would like to think that most of us know better than to peel off a sticker from a child’s chart…but it has been done, usually in anger. Again, we want to consequences to be the result of a logical progression whereby the child learns something. Our anger usually gets in the way of our ability to teach the lesson we desire our child to learn. The last thing you want your child to say is that the consequence was the result of you being “mad”…you want her to be able to identify what she did to cause the consequence. Please go here if you’d like to learn more about the importance of staying calm when you give consequences: Bill Strong, Denver Counselor on Calm Interventions with Children.
I once knew the parents of a teenager give him his “dream car” after getting straight A’s for one semester. A brand spanking new car for one semester of good grades! I disagree with this on so many levels it would be hard to list them all. Regardless, the car could be used as a powerful incentive should its use be conditional to future grades/behaviors, instead of it being “given” outright. Unfortunately, the teen was told that the car was his unconditionally…good job and keep up the good work. As one might expect, the grades didn’t last, and the teen had a very entitled attitude about the car. The lesson on how the car was earned, and what it represented, was lost after the first week.
Please use a contract with your child or teenager if they are earning some reward that is big, and has an ongoing use (thereby it is an ongoing reward!). If the reward is something like a simple event…never take away what was earned. Just do it at a later time if the child/teen is having a bad day.
For big rewards, a contract should spell out in specific terms just what is expected for the reward to remain in the child/teen’s possession. Using the car as an example, we might include in the contract conditions such as: A 3.0 grade average, random urine tests showing zero drug/alcohol use, general compliance to the “3 Family Rules” (to read more about the 3 Family Rules, go here: Bill Strong LCSW, Family Counselor), and the following of traffic laws. Include in the contract just what the consequence is, such as if the teen gets a ticket, he pays the fine and loses the use of the car for 2 weeks.
Keep in mind that no matter how specific the contact is, you won’t be able to cover everything. That is where our parenting technique of “That’s just the way it is” comes in. Don’t fall into the “But you didn’t tell me” strategy by your teen. Do you best to have the contract include most things…and then make modifications on the fly as needed.
Never forget, as the parent, You’re The Boss.
To visit my web-page, to schedule an appointment, or to email me a question, please click here: William Strong, LCSW Denver Therapist.
Please go here for: General Therapy Ideas from Bill Strong, Denver Therapist.