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Eliciting Conseqences for Inappropriate Behavior

This piece was the second part of the “Your Questions Answered” section of the ODD Management Digest. (The Digest is free; subscribe from the column on the right.) It poses some good strageties for more pleasant outcomes of a conflict between parent and child.

I appreciated what Janet Lehman had to say in the recent two-part piece on consequences. In discussing it with a friend, however, an alternative of “eliciting” consequences was suggested. I’m not sure what this is, but it sounds interesting. How does it work?

In the last issue of the Digest I addressed this question. It’s a good question, and it helped us look at another way of managing consequences with a difficult or defant youngster.

A Little Review

The approach we covered last month was not complicated at all. In fact, it made a lot of sense. It involved simply asking the youngster to state the consequence to follow.

The most difficult part of eliciting a consequence is the making certain that in a moment of no strife or difficulty, consequences for certain behaviors or actions (including behaviors of “not doing”) have already been discussed with the child or teen. It would be a great idea to write them down, print them off, and give the youngster a copy. That way, if the child says, “I don’t remember,” they can go get their list or retrieve it from the saved file on the computer. (I suppose we could call that “Family” Public Record.)

Last month I also emphasized the value of the child stating the consequence to the parent. THIS IS CRITICAL. There’s something about a son or daughter stating the consequence back to the parent in their own voice that serves to nail down the issue.

Always keep in mind that with this approach, some work has to be done up front, long before the consequence is needed.

Another Way

But what if the work has not been done up front? What if the situation of the infraction is so unique there is no preset consequence?

Try this: Calmly ask the child what she believes would be a reasonable consequence. Better yet, ask her to come up with a menu of three. You might present it in a manner something like this:

Suzie, I’m sure you understand I’m not happy about what you did (or didn’t do), but I’ve always seen you as a reasonable and fair young lady. See if you can come up with three consequences you believe both of us can accept. If so, I’ll pick one, and we’ll be done with it. Okay?On the other hand, Suzie, if you don’t think you are reasonable and fair person, let me know, and I’ll come up with one. (Not likely to happen.)

“Come up with three consequences …” is actually a pretty solid consequence in itself, isn’t it?

I do believe most youngsters understand the concept of “reasonable and fair.” Suzie know that telling a lie doesn’t mean she’ll sleep outdoors for six months, but she also knows a parent isn’t likely to let a blatant falsehood go unaddressed.

Even when she messes up, Mom and Dad can honor Suzie when they appeal to her sense of what seems right.

James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP

Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064
(800) 659-6628 Email:


August 15, 2011 - Posted by | Difficult Child, family, Parents | , , , , ,

1 Comment »

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