The Consequence of Consequences


When Zoe’s school first suggested “Consequences” 2 years ago – which feels like a long time ago – we LOVED the idea. And it worked instantly. We didn’t even have to GIVE a consequence, we just had to say the word “consequence”, and she would straighten right up. It was like a miracle.

But for the past year (hmmm, since the idea/reality of having a little sister, perhaps?), it’s getting more and more difficult to find a consequence that actually works. First of all, she’s MY kid. She negotiates:

  • Me: Do that again and your markers go away for a week!
  • Zoe: What if we just put away these markers? (imagine the colors NO kid uses -and just 3 of them…)

For the record, that does not work. In fact, my likely response is more like ‘ask that again and it will be 2 weeks’. Sounds harsh perhaps, but seriously, that child can push every button with ease. Calmly. Without frustration. As though it were the most reasonable thing in the world to A) do the thing someone just asked her not to do and B) negotiate her own consequences for doing so.

It’s amazing really.

A couple of months ago I decided I had the perfect plan: When she chose not to listen, she would have to DONATE something of value – GONE FOREVER to children who would appreciate it. Brilliant, right? Not so much.

First, I LIKE to donate things, and Zoe has been (mostly) willingly donating her toys a few times a year as she outgrows them. She actually LIKES picking out toys that other kids will enjoy. Though she sometimes suffers from that “oh, I love THAT THING (the one I haven’t touched in 6 months)!” Wait, so I think I know where that comes from…

Anyway, donating is a kind thing to do, in my mind. So the consequences of these consequences?

  • I am likely to DESTROY the good will of donating for my child
  • I have to either choose something she REALLY does not want to lose to make the consequence work (which is often a more expensive thing I actually WANT her to have) or she picks things she honestly never plays with and tries to make THOSE the “consequence”, basically avoiding any real consequence at all

Yep, poor planning by me. It seemed so GREAT. The first time I did it her eyes got HUGE, and she said “but Mommy, if I give all my toys away, I won’t have any toys at all!” To which I responded, “That’s exactly right. So if I were you, I’d choose to listen so I can keep my toys.”

If you’ve seen the movie Inside Out, you’ll get it when I say “The Foot is Down.” In case you haven’t, there’s a scene where the dad tries to “fix” a situation and let’s just say he doesn’t. [SPOILER ALERT: here’s the scene]

I can relate to that. So, how’s that Consequences thing going now? Not so well. We’re in limbo as we try to figure out what WILL work with this child. If you have suggestions, we’re ALL ears (Zoe, on the other hand, is NOT)…

Oh, Sassafras.


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