KEYS PLEASE! 3 KEY THINGS MY DAD TAUGHT ME ABOUT CONSEQUENCES
MAY 1, 2019 / by Cheryl Turner
You know that feeling. When freedom is suddenly ripped away because you messed up. Back in the 70s my keys didn't have any fancy buttons, but symbolically they still meant freedom!
Getting my drivers’ license was a big deal. Not that I was going to have my own car or anything. My parents believed in the “hold your horses” school of thought when it came to things like that. Just the privilege of owning a set of keys to the family car had to be earned by demonstrating responsible driving behavior. Until then, I could borrow mom or dad’s keys… with their permission of course.
One weekend I had plans for both a Friday and a Saturday night thing and I had my heart set on using dad’s car. When I approached him, he reminded me of my 11:00 pm curfew. But here was the catch: Typically, he would pick me up from an outing at 11:00. But since I was now driving, I would need to be home by 11:00. That didn’t seem so fair, but I wasn’t in a position to haggle, so I happily agreed. He continued the drill with questions like “How long will it take you to get from your friend’s?”, "Where will you park?", "Do you know the best route?", "Do you have a watch?", "Can you even tell time?" (Yes, my dad had a sense of humor.) He finally agreed and I felt victorious.
The Friday thing was great fun…. so much fun that time got away from me. It was suddenly 10:55 and I was at least 10 minutes away from home. My friends tried to convince me that my parents would be asleep, but I knew better. When I pulled in at 11:08, there they sat. They greeted me with happy smiles, asking all about the party. I almost escaped to my room thinking they hadn’t noticed the time, when dad called me back to the living room. His demeanor was still calm and pleasant, but his hand was outstretched toward me. “Keys please” he said. I went through my whole repertoire of responses: Confusion, blaming traffic lights, blaming my friends, “no fair!”, “one more chance?” I tried all my greatest hits. Dad remained calm, understanding, even empathetic. Then he firmly repeated, “Keys Please”. Dad had kept his end of the bargain. I had not. I didn’t get to use the keys again until my dad could make time to go back and review some things with me. He took a few weeks to find the time, giving me some time to reflect.
My dad taught me some important things that night about consequences. Here are three helpful tips that might help you to use consequences more effectively with your children or students…. courtesy of Cheryl’s dad.
Teach First…. Then set expectations high. Hold children accountable for what you’ve taught (or re-taught) them to do. Before handing over his keys, my dad left nothing to chance. He didn’t just tell me what the rule was. He helped me understand how to successfully follow the rule.
Be Consistent. 11:00 means 11:00. The consequence helped me understand that. Had there not been one, I might have pushed the envelope more the next time. We sometimes cave in, because we don’t want to endure the blow-back, tantrums or attitudes that will follow. I ranted and raved at first and was a little “huffy” all weekend. But my Dad remained calm and understanding. He knew I’d get through it and that the lesson learned would be valuable. So he didn’t take it personally.
Offer Children Choices. Choices empower children and help them to be thinkers and problem solvers. My dad offered a clear, reasonable choice: Be home by the agreed upon curfew time and enjoy the privilege of using the car next time OR arrive home past your curfew and lose the privilege of using the car. I made a choice. I had to own the consequence.
My dad’s intent was not to make me suffer. It was to invite me to reflect on the choice I’d made, so that I’d be prepared to make a better choice next time for a better outcome. That’s what makes consequences different from punishments. I’ve discovered that this basic principle applies to almost every choice I make as an adult.
If you and your staff would like to think and learn more about consequences, contact Reach TLS to bring a training workshop to your school campus, district or organization.