Based in the Bay Area, WLK is Mikee and Jo — working parents of two loving and kind kids. They love sharing stories and tips at the intersection of work, life and kids.

5Rs: No-yelling formula for consequences

5Rs: No-yelling formula for consequences

Positive Parenting Solution conducts these free parenting webinars on consequences. I attended one and took a bunch of notes. It was so good that I ended up purchasing their packages to gain access to more of their content. Feel free to sign up for their free webinar on their homepage or you can peruse through the notes I took.

Our personal experience: We started implementing the 5Rs about a year ago and it (almost instantly!) worked like a charm. We never have to yell anymore. It was a bit of practicing at first but now it is muscle-memory. We love this framework!
*WLK was not paid for this endorsement!

1. R - Respectful

There should be no blame, shame and pain for the child. We play an equal role in behavior so we have to respond in calm and respectful way. If you can't address the behavior in clam way, don't deal with it in that moment. You don't have to deal with it right away. You can wait 10 mins. "Let's talk about what happened a little while ago with you brother and train tracks"

If you're angry they go into self defense mode. You can step in and calm but you can wait to discuss the behavior until you're calm.

R - Related to misbehavior *** (most often forgotten)

The consequence MUST be related to the behavior because we want an actual learning event to take place. It has to be connected to misbehavior. "If you don't wear a helmet, you don't get to ride a bike. If you don't brush your teeth, you don't get ice cream or anything else that turns into sugar bugs. If you don't brush your teeth thats fine, but anything that turns into sugar is off limits." We put the control in their hands. After a day of pure vegetables, they will brush their teeth without any battle. 

Older kids: If you miss curfew you don't get to go out next weekend. If you don't turn off device when i told you, you can't get the device. You don't want to do willy nilly consequence because it is an act of desperation. They don't have to like the consequence, but it must feel fair. Otherwise the anger turns on you. They won't be owning their personal responsibility, it will be more about how mean you are. 

If you can't think of  related consequence, just let it go. If it's not obviously, then consequences might not be the right tool for dealing with this behavior. It will be obviously related consequence.

R - Reasonable in duration

We're not trying to make the suffer or pay for mistake. Our goal is to make them learn. If 4yo is throwing puzzle pieces around, it would be reasonable to pack it away and let her try it again tomorrow. Keep it reasonable based on child's age and maturity. Don't arbitrarily make it longer because it's not working. It tells you that it wasn't structured in the right way.

R - Revealed in advance

So your child has a choice between appropriate behavior and consequence. If she knows what to expect, she has the power to determine what choices to make. Your child must be able to influence.

R - Repeated back to you

Have the child repeat back to you the consequence.

"So we're on the same page, can you repeat back to me the new rule and the consequence will be if you choose not to follow the rule." Once they repeat back, you have a verbal agreement.

For younger kids, use simple sentences. As long as they're verbal enough, the process can work for you. 

If you miss one of the Rs, it will feel like blame, shame and pain. Once it turns on you, the kids will not be taking personal responsibility. 

Case study and script for technology issue

  • Don't start the conversation with "you always" or "you never". Instead, start with "I've noticed". It gets into problem-solving state of mind.

    • "I've noticed we've been having issues with technology. When i ask you to turn off the tablet, you ignore my request or theres a lot of grumbling. That's not okay - having tech is a privilege and there is responsibility that goes along with it (Smile on your face)"

  • Remember all these devices are all privileges and not right. You need to be crystal clear about expectations in those areas. If your kids are not mature enough to follow boundaries, we know we need to make some changes.

    • "In the future my expectation is when i ask you to turn off, i expect you will turn it off without grumbling and groaning. I'll give you 5 minute warning so you can save your game. You can set a timer. I won't remind you or give second chances. it's up to you. Does it feel reasonable e for the privilege of having computer games? "

  • "Now i'm sure we won't have any issues but I want to let you know that if I ask you to turn it off, and you ignore or theres ANY grumbling or groaning, you are going to lose your video game privileges for the next week."

  • I want to close the loop by having the child repeat back.

    • “Just so we're on the same page can you repeat back to me the new rule for technology and the consequence for when you don't follow the rule?"

At this point, who decides to get the tech privileges? The child. If she loses her privileges, it's her choice she choose. If you follow through, she can only be mad at herself. She might get mad at you, it's perfectly normal. But you know you've done the ground work doing the 5Rs. See how it is so empowering for both parties. As a parent, you established the rules. But the child also has the power to decide how it works out for her within the boundaries you set.


WHAT IF you notice consequence in advance but the child won't repeat back?

1. Child is clearly not mature enough to have a privilege for video games. Pack it away for 3-6 months. It's not a punishment, its to demonstrate a certain level of responsibility. 

2. You have a power struggle in your hands. It's not the video games. it's about proving to you who's really the boss. You might be having power struggles in other routines. If you have it in one area you likely have it in another.

WHAT IF they repeat back but they still make a poor choice?

This WILL happen. They're learning and they'll make mistakes. When they do, you'll follow your promise and implement the consequence. If you're not wiling to follow through, don't even put it out there. It's going to prove to your kids to not be taken seriously. How you follow through is important - avoid "I told you so"ing. That was a big bunch of blame, shame and pain that i heaped onto a perfectly good consequence. 

"Gosh i see you chose to lose your video privileges. I am confident you'll make a better choice next time because this is a learning opportunity".

Let them own that with dignity. He will be much more likely to make a better choice next time. This allows the child to save face. 

WHAT IF I can't think of a good consequence?

If you can't find one that meets the 5Rs, consequences are not the right tools. Consequences are only used 10-15% of the time, when it can easily meet the 5Rs. There are other tools available with Positive Parenting Solutions. It covers big ticket struggles below:

  • Bedtime battles

  • Sibling rivalry

  • Tantrums

  • Backtalk

  • Morning dawdling

  • Homework hassles

  • Chore wars

  • Entitlement

  • Whining

  • Helplessness

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