How to Troubleshoot When Consequences Don’t Seem to be Working

Dear Kid Whisperer,

I attended your Kid Whisperer University last summer. I am struggling with the delayed consequences skill. For most students, the interventions are working well. The students for whom I need to delay consequences are repeat offenders. It’s typically attention seeking kids that are abrasive with any type of authority. They are constantly searching for the grey area and loopholes in rules and directions. Do you have any suggestions?  -Scarlet, Shaker Heights, Ohio



Here are the three questions that I suggest adults use when they have kids who continue to use the same negative behaviors even after they have received multiple consequences.

Did I preface with enough empathy?

Kid presses his foot into another child under his desk even after Kid Whisperer has already attempted to gently guide Kid away from this negative behavior by moving near the child and giving him a confused look. Kid Whisperer, knowing that this is a really explosive kid, breathes deeply, doubles over in sadness, breathes deeply again, helps another student, and then walks over to Kid.

Kid Whisperer: Oh, man…… This is really rough. I will take care of this later. Look at my face (Kid Whisperer gives a sad smile). Do I look angry? Right, I’m not at all. Don’t let this ruin your day.

Notice that I also show tons of empathy when I’m giving the consequence under the next heading.

Am I giving a truly logical consequence?

Most people don’t know the difference between a punishment and a logical consequence. It is too involved to be fully explained here, but a punishment means just to randomly assign pain so a behavior will stop. A logical consequence involves a kid learning to use a correct behavior or solving the problem that he caused. In this case, sometime well after the infraction during non-instructional time, I would have the student practice using the correct behavior (not putting his feet on people).

Kid Whisperer: Oh, man……. Thanks for talking with me. It seems like you are struggling with not putting your feet on people. No worries. I’m not mad at you. I just require that all students become experts at not causing problems for others. How long do you need to practice not putting your feet on people before you become an expert:  15 minutes or 17 minutes?

Kid: This is weird.

Kid Whisperer: Okey dokey. 17 minutes it is. You can practice right now by sitting next to me while I grade these papers. If you can sit here for 17 minutes and not touch me with your shoes, I’ll consider you an expert, and we’ll be done. We’ll start as soon as you are sitting next to me. I’m going to grade these papers.

Is the kid suffering enough?

Very often, we do everything right, but we don’t allow the kid to suffer enough from the great consequence we created. If this kid practiced successfully, but then exhibited the same behavior again, we would simply allow the kid more time to practice the same behavior. Any suffering that may occur (being bored, missing recess, etc.) is incidental; it isn’t the purpose of the consequence.

Kid Whisperer: Oh, man. We thought that you were an expert at proper in-class foot placement. I guess we were wrong. No worries. I’ll still like you no matter how long it takes you to learn this. How long do you think you need to get perfect at this: one hour or two hours?

Kid: One hour.

Kid Whisperer: Cool. This will take a few sessions, of course. You know the drill.

If you ask yourself these questions, you will find your consequences being more effective, and you will feel better giving them!