Social Skills and Consequences

by admin on November 24, 2009

Social Skills and Consequences: Not Just Another Word for Punishment

Social Skills and Consequences: Not Just Another Word for Punishment
By Ellen Mossman-Glazer

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.]

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.

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 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.
Consequence: Your child decides what activity he will have to miss on the weekend in order to finish the project. Chores and other obligations remain as usual. No need for parental control, only to watch over to see that the child handles the problem. Do you see how rule and consequence have a natural connection?

A Case Study: Two Versions

Two children are fighting over a Gameboy. Mom hears this going on in the other room. Mom comes in and takes away the Gameboy, and attempts to separate the kids, sending them to their rooms. They refuse to go. Mom yells and loses her cool. Mom then tries a different tack, telling the children, they will have to split the time each has with the Gameboy, since they can’t share it appropriately. But she decides to first separate them and hear each story and make a judgment call who plays with the Gameboy first. Nothing is solved, the argument carries on until mom and kids are frazzled.

What happened here? Mom took on the responsibility, resulting in a no-win power struggle. The kids did not cooperate with her solution, they challenged her authority, she felt forced to back down and come up with another solution and set herself up for something she has to police – who’s first, who’s second? The process got time intensive as mom collected and sorted information and after all that, the problem was not solved. That was real punishment – for mom!

Case Study: The Consequence Version

When mom hears the kids fighting, she comes into the room and firmly says, “STOP! You must get along before you can have the Gameboy back. The Gameboy will stay on the kitchen table until you can figure out how to share it.” That’s it!

What happened this time? Mom handled the conflict, setting out a safety rule for the kids and boundaries about where the Gameboy is to be kept and for how long. But she has not solved the problem. That’s the kids’ job. Mom exits the scene and the kids know the Gameboy is available when they figure out how to share it. Mom is not needed again. And the kids have an opportunity to work out a solution that will carry forward to the next time.

Whether it’s your toddler or your teen, you can hand over the problem-solving to them.

Ellen Mossman-Glazer M.Ed. is a Life Skills Coach and Behavioral Specialist, specializing in Asperger Syndrome, High Functioning Autism, ADHD, and learning difficulties. Over her 20 years in special education classrooms and treatment settings, Ellen has seen the struggle that children and adults have when they feel they don’t fit in. She now works in private practice with people across the USA and Canada, by phone, teleconference groups and email, helping parents, educators, caregivers and their challenging loved ones, to find their own specific steps and tools to thrive. Ellen is the author of two on line e-zines, Emotion Matters: Tools and Tips for Working with Feelings and Social Skills: The Micro Steps. Subscribe for free and see more about Ellen at
You can take a free mini assessment which Ellen will reply to with your first action step.

Article Source:

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: