Equailty of Compliments and Consequences

I believe knowing and understanding the personality of a child is one of the most important things a parent can do.  It’s with this concept in mind that I’m going to teach how to get the most out of your child whether it be academically, athletically, socially, or emotionally.

Without getting too technical, let’s just agree that everyone responds to a stimulus in different ways.  For example, if a kid likes M&M’s, wouldn’t it be a good idea to use that as a reward when a desired behavior is achieved?  On the other hand, if the child doesn’t like strawberry ice cream, it would be ridiculous to use that as a reward. A parent would be wise to use what works.

I also think we can agree in general that compliments and consequences can and should be used to motivate a child.  But, how do you determine when to use one over the other?  For example, if a child brings home a poor grade from school, should you compliment the child? (Jimmy, you are so so smart.  I know if you try a little harder, you’ll be able to improve)  Perhaps the more prudent thing to do is to consequence him/her. (Jimmy, because you kissed your science grade goodbye, make sure to kiss your girlfriend goodbye as well because you’re grounded for a week)  Knowing your child well is the best way to determine how to handle the situation.

Unfortunately, the best answer I can give you is that trial and error is involved.  For example, with my 7 year old child, the optimum ratio of compliments and consequences is around. 50/50.  When I compliment him too much, he tends to not listen as much over time because he knows it all.  Contrarily, if I consequence him too much, he tends to lose a bit of confidence in himself over time.  I believe I know my child well enough and a proper balance has been struck.  It took time though to fully realize and implement this balance.

What’s interesting though is with my 3 year old, the ratio is very different.  With him, the optimum ratio is around 70/30.  He responds to compliments very well but struggles more with consequences.  That doesn’t mean I won’t give him consequences to get the desired behavior but I can usually get it quicker with compliments- especially in the world of academics. Again, this took time and a lot of mistakes on my part before striking the proper balance.

I haven’t done an extensive psychological study on this.  What I can tell you is that with all the kids I’ve worked with, there were plenty who responded better over time to consequences than compliments.  That could have been due to their background at home.  There’s no way for me to know.  The most extreme example of a child who fits this was probably a 30/70 ratio.

In conclusion, it’s up to every parent to find where the happy medium is between compliments and consequences.  There are a lot of cases though where the ratio isn’t 50-50.  Obviously, the way to know whether the compliment or consequence actually worked is to see if you receive the desired behavior.

I am fully aware this is a very tricky and often confusing subject.  If you have questions about this pertaining to your child, feel free to email me at tantrumstroublesandtreasures@yahoo.com.

Thanks for reading and I’ll have another post ready on Tuesday.  For all the people who refer my blog to others, I wanted to give a special thank you. It truly means a lot!!!

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  1. Shannon says:

    Totally agree that a balance has to be found. For us we were not following through with consequences and it showed. Luckily my sister pointed it out to us which I know was hard for her to do. She opened our eyes to what we should have known already. My son missed trick or treating 2 years ago because of his behavior. That was tough for my husband and myself but after–so much better!!

  2. Jacqueline says:

    I agree totally with finding the individual personalities of your children. Learning what works with them in the respect to compliments and consequences helps form their egos and mores for the better, I know. I also believe strongly in speaking to your children as intelligent beings instead of just cute little moppets. I am sure my twins will have completely different personalities and I look forward to following your blog to give me ideas in the best way to handle them.

  3. Laura says:

    Thanks for linking up with Footloose and Fancy Free this week!


  4. Teachermum says:

    I have found that praising the process rather than the end product is the most effective. Sometimes a reward is not necessary, as the goal is rather a sense of self-satisfaction rather than a sense of entitlement. I might say, "Wow, I can tell that you worked really hard on that," or "I can tell that you were making a really big effort to help me today."
    I do believe it always important to follow through on consequences, provided the consequence is suitable. I also tend to use the same strategy in bad behaviour of acknowledging the process, so would say, "Your behaviour was selfish. What would you do differently next time?"
    I also like the idea of agreeing on consequences before the behaviours even occur.

  5. Cookie's Mom says:

    Thanks for this post, Clayton. We have been giving this topic a lot of thought. We have a "spirited" 3-year-old, and have ultimately landed on a combination of the two. Good behaviours elicit compliments and rewards at the moment – that included successive approximations to whatever it is we are trying to encourage more of. Bad behaviours – those things that our boy knows he is not to do – have consequences, clearly communicated and understood.

    Looking forward to your future posts. Visiting you from the Epic Mom blog hop!

  6. Michelle says:

    I think probably a 50/50 split would work with my kids as well. Luckily, I don't have to have too many consequences with my 7 yr. old anymore and when I do they are "natural consequences" , but my 4 yr. old is probably about 40/60 right now. She has had so many things taken away from her lately! I don't know. . . maybe I need to go back in the other direction toward complimenting the good behavior. I just don't think the 3 – 5 yr. old age is fun when it comes to some things b/c they're trying so hard to assert their independence. Thanks for stopping by the S&R weekend hop.