Stella bought a cup of coffee at McDonald’s. She spilled it on herself and sued McDonald’s. A jury gave her $3 million.
You’ve probably heard about that case.*** Many people were really upset by the outcome. When the punishment is totally out of line with the “crime” people rightfully get upset.
Your kids are that way, too.
When our kids misbehave and we have to impose consequences, it’s important those consequences be FIRM – which is an acronym that can help you decide if your consequences are appropriate.
How to make sure your consequences are F.I.R.M.
Consequences that are appropriate most of the time may not be appropriate if our kids are hungry, tired, sick or hurt. We need to be willing to flex but let them know why we’re treating them differently. Don’t just let them “get away with it” without an explanation that this is grace because they aren’t feeling well.
Additionally, as they get older we should demand they exercise more and more self-control even if they are tired or hungry. If we don’t, we aren’t preparing them for real life. No boss will allow them to whine or be disrespectful just because they’re tired or hungry.
When possible don’t make them “wait till Dad gets home” or put off imposing the consequences. The sooner they face the consequences the more effective they are. When we wait younger children often forget even what they are being punished for. But Scripture makes it clear that quick punishment is wise for older children too.
When a crime is not punished quickly, people feel it is safe to do wrong.
As much as possible, we should decide ahead of time what the consequences will be for misbehavior. In fact, whenever we tell our kids about a rule, in the next breath we should let them know what will happen if they violate the rule.
Expect them to obey but be prepared for them to disobey.
Deciding the consequences ahead of time let’s them know what to expect and it keeps us from imposing some outrageous penalty because we’re upset.
- Match the crime.
As in the McDonald’s case*** excessive punishment can produce resentment and resistance to change. Try to make the punishment fit the “crime”. If they break something they replace it (or, if they are too young to replace it they can at least help clean it up). Additionally, try to make it a learning experience. (That’s why I sometimes used Scripture copying as a consequence. Read how to do that.)
At a total loss for what to do?
Ask your kids what they think would be appropriate. I remember doing this and the kids were a lot harder on themselves than I would have been.
*** There’s a lot more to the McDonalds story than what the pop media told you. Read more about Stella’s suit.