One plan for dealing with misbehavior {aka “the time I forgot about consequences”}

Feb 12, 2013

When I had Knox, the older boys were just finishing up the second half of Spring semester. A month after he was born, I attended parent-teacher conferences. During one conference a teacher asked me, “When ____(insert name)___ does something he’s not supposed to do, what is his consequence?”


Oh shoot! Consequences? I had completely forgotten about consequences.

What I wanted to tell her, but wisely didn’t, was when the boys got too wild or broke a rule, their “consequence” was an angry mommy… or the command, “STOP IT!!!!” or choice words yelled across the house.

Feeding a newborn every couple hours made it challenging to remember the importance of an effective discipline system. Meeting the needs of a baby was all-consuming. Providing for physical needs of 3 other boys, then possibly meeting some emotional needs AND executing thoughtful discipline on top of it all? Forget about it.

But her question, “What is the consequence…” stuck in my head for several days. She reminded me how off-base my discipline had tilted. Maybe it had just fallen off the wagon all-together.

For me, discipline swings on a pendulum swinging between too-strict and too-permissive. When things get too permissive, it gets too chaotic in our home and it robs the joy.

James Dobson gives a memorable analogy (this is my summary…) Suppose you are going 90 mph on the highway and pass a police officer. What if the officer could only stand next to the highway and yell as loud as he could, “Slow down!!” & blow his whistle…would you stop speeding?

photo credit

But imagine driving with your kids, jamming to your Seeds Family Worship and you see the lights of a police car in your rearview mirror (not that this has happened to me…merely an example). 😉 Your heart beats rapidly as you roll down the window to hand over your license & registration. You wait anxiously for the officer to return to the side of your car and determine whether you will be handed the dreaded ticket requiring you to pay a large sum of money.

For the next month…or year…when you get to the specific road you were pulled over, you make sure to go well below the speed limit. And it worked…behavior changed by a consequence.

For a long time I’ve been the police officer just yelling from the side of the road. My kids called my bluff & there was no change in behavior.

Then I was flipping through the book “Good & Angry” by Turansky & Miller and was reminded of a simple way to deal with misbehavior at home. It gave me a plan to implement in those moments I want to just shout “no!”.

Here is my version of their plan for handling misbehavior:

  1. Unacceptable behavior occurs
  2. Ask the offender to sit on our bottom step
  3. Tell him to come find me when he is ready to talk about his behavior
  4. When he finds me we talk through the following questions:
  • What did you do that was wrong?
  • Why was it wrong?
  • What are you going to do next time?

**End with “Now go try again!” (my favorite part…they leave encouraged instead of discouraged).

I’ve found the boys typically know what they did wrong. But they rarely can express “why” it was wrong (a child development issue…most kids struggle with the “why”). Talking through the why helps form their moral code. For example, “Why was it wrong to hit your brother? Because God commands us to love one another. Hitting someone is not loving or kind.”

Then talking about options and ways to respond next time has also proved helpful in reducing bad behavior choices. For example, “If he takes one of your toys and it makes you upset, you could tell him, ‘I was playing with that car. You can have it when I’m finished.'”

I’m not going to lie & tell you life is grand & my boys never fight or disobey. No ma’am. But I have a plan now. When the baby needs to be fed & someone makes a bad choice I have a tool I can pull out instead of yelling.

What consequence system have you found to be useful? I can use all the help I can get!! 


  1. Amy K.

    I currently have a 3 month old and I am in the “feeding every 2 hours” stage of life right now. I have noticed my yelling has increased a lot over the past few months. I must sound like a crazy person to my 2 year old and my 4 year old. I really appreciate your post today because it helps me remember need a plan for those times when I can’t jump up and intervene.

    • GodCenteredMom

      such a tricky stage of mothering…they know you “can’t” follow through (well, I guess you could…it would just make one baby VERY upset…adding to the chaos). Let me know if this plan works for you!

  2. Laura

    I totally relate to your pendulum swing – from too strict to too permissive. Finding balance can be hard! Thanks for the post – it was a good reminder.

    • GodCenteredMom

      always glad to hear when I’m not alone in these things…thanks, Laura!!

  3. Rebekah

    I am pregnant with my 3rd baby boy right now and I can see this coming in handy in my near future! I love the questions after the consequence! I will use these with my 3 year old, who can understand and respond, and also my 1 1/2 year old, who will look at me like I’m crazy 🙂

    • GodCenteredMom

      Ha! I’m picturing the look on your 18 month old’s face. Yeah I would def say it has the greatest affect on those in my home 3 years and older. From the speech-language pathology perspective…”Why” questions are tricky for little guys. (pst…congrats on the 3rd boy!).

  4. Pamela

    Ooohh, I like this. I shall give this a try! We do: 1. Why are you in time out/why did you get a spanking (depending on the offense). 2. What do you need to say (sorry for ___) and 3. mommy forgives you.
    It works (kinda) but I like the better exploration of the event with your plan. Think I will still work on putting the sorry in there.

    • GodCenteredMom

      Oh yes!! thanks for the reminder Pamela. Definitely should have a “how are you going to make things right?” part of the conversation. Especially if misbehavior caused pain for another member of the family. Let me know if it works for y’all. Again…just another tool in the bag.

  5. kate clarke

    you talk about making them sit on the naughty step. How do you make a 13 year old do that I ask?

    • GodCenteredMom

      Oh kate! My oldest is 7 & I don’t even have that age figured out. I heard once you should be most strict when your children are little & then loosen up as they get older. Giving them more freedom & responsibility with each year. I also heard “rules without relationship equals rebellion”…again this advice comes from other “experts”. (which I do not claim to be!)

    • Laura

      I have a 13 yo son, and usually if he’s being disrespectful to me or ugly to his siblings I send him to his “man cave” for a bit. (He has a loft bed, with a sheet hanging down to close off the part underneath for privacy, as he shares his room with two other brothers.) Usually he just needs some time to calm down, and then we can talk things through.

      I always remember Sally Clarkson talking about how we would want to be treated – how on the days where I’m tired and impatient with my kids, I don’t need someone to come fuss at me about how awful I’m being. What I need is someone to say,” hey, you look stressed. Sit down and have a cup of coffee and let’s talk about it.” I think most of the time that’s where he’s at. He has a good heart, and he wants to do the right thing. His hormones and sinful nature just get the better of him sometimes. 🙂

  6. Liz Smith

    just found your blog – thanks to Twitter! Awesome! We live in the same town, and I think we could be friends. :0) You seem to write in my voice! lol

    • GodCenteredMom

      welcome liz!!! gonna head over & check out your blog!! love meeting new friends. 😉

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