Q: My wife and I are starting to feel guilty about having to constantly punish our kid, on nearly a daily basis. It's almost as if he's always doing something that requires a consequence! We're worried that we're being too hard on him and that he could sink into a depression because he's always grounded and doesn't get to do much of anything. Do you think that we should lay off a bit or stay the course?
A: For kids that are frequently exhibiting behavioral problems, to the point that you're constantly levying consequences, it is usually best to list and rank order their negative behaviors. Prioritize them by order of importance and severity. Once you have done that, focus on the top 2 or 3 and levy natural, educational consequences (that also teach life lessons) for those negative behaviors. As for the remaining behaviors on the list, address them when they occur and discuss more appropriate behaviors, but hold off on levying consequences for those behaviors. Let your child know that you're giving him a warning and that if he doesn't eliminate those behaviors he will receive consequences for them in the future. It's also good practice to allow a kid 3 strikes on most behaviors anyway, unless they are significantly negative and must have a consequence immediately (e.g. sexually acting out, truancy, school suspensions, shoplifting, etc.); but, those are the behaviors that are usually slotted in the top 2 or 3 on the list anyway. So you would be targeting them first.
Hopefully, this will reduce your feelings of guilt about your child constantly being grounded or drowning in consequences for his many negative behaviors. Slow things down and eliminate the behaviors 2 or 3 at a time. And good luck with the process.
Thank you for your question and do take care.