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Social Skills and Consequences: Not Just Another Word for Punishment
By: Ellen Mossman-Grazer
Let's presume you have covered these first two basic steps in your behavior change program:


1. You have worked with your child to establish The Rules and why they are important. [Rules may be specifically set out poster- style guidelines or agreements, or they may be less specifically stated but understood limits and boundaries.]
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2. You have worked with your child to establish The Reward System related to following the rules. [Rewards may be tangible items or the natural payoffs and pleasures related to accomplishing the business of life.]


Next, you establish The Consequences. Your kids need to know what will happen when they do and do not do what is expected. Consequences teach that for every action there is a corresponding reaction. That reaction can be of the feel-good type and it can also be negative because something pleasurable is unavailable. Our focus here is to look at the negative side of consequences and what it takes for our challenging loved ones to shift their behavior to the positive, rewarding side.

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The internal workings of punishments and consequences are very different. Here are the distinctions:


Punishment revolves around who has the power.
Punishment encourages a struggle between parent and child. Consequences force the child to struggle with the problem, instead of the parent. The power the child does have is to work on a solution.


Punishment puts the entire responsibility on the parent.
The parent has to be on site to make sure the punishment happens according to plan. Consequences take the burden off the parent. The child learns life lessons by taking on appropriate responsibilities for the problem.


Punishment teaches a child to conceal and lie.
When kids fear punishment, and try to cover up a problem, it layers on additional issues for parents to handle. With consequences, your child cannot avoid the results of her behavior. She is has to take action to solve or rectify a matter.


A Comparative Example: A child leaves a homework project to the last minute.


Punishment: The parent takes away this week's allowance. There is no natural relationship between schoolwork and allowance. Money becomes a way to try to control the child's behavior.

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