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A Follower Making Poor Choices and Consequences

Dr. Catherine Pearlman on

Dear Family Coach: My 9-year-old son seems to be getting into more trouble at school this year. He's not the one who starts the fooling around, but he is definitely a joiner. He doesn't want to miss out on being with his buddies. His behavior is not affecting his grades, as he is a good student. But what's the best way to remedy his misbehaving? -- Follower's Father

Dear Father: There are two probable culprits behind your son's behavior: He is fearful that if he doesn't follow his friends, he won't have any. Additionally, he might be a bit impulsive. This means he often makes quick decisions without thinking through the consequences. In order to help your son make better choices, it's important to address both potential culprits.

To combat the fear of losing friends, help your son diversify. Provide more opportunities for him to make friends who make better choices. Additionally, find places where your son could experience being a leader. This could be the basketball court or Boy Scouts. Encourage your son's independent thinking skills. This may mean he comes up with some crazy stuff. Don't discourage him from stepping away from the crowd, even if that means pink hair or outfits you hate.

When your son does inevitably make a mistake by following the crowd, go easy. Instead of harsh words and lectures, see it as a learning opportunity. Don't shut down the conversation or make him get defensive. Try to help him review the episode like a detective. What were the pressures? What other possible ways could he have responded? Could he have walked away or asked for help? After the debrief, ask your son to imagine the exact same scenario but with him avoiding the trouble. Use role-playing to reinforce the strategies discussed. Continue to talk about situations as they arise. Encourage your son to let you know when he makes wise choices, too, so you can praise him for being brave enough to step away from peer pressures.

Dear Family Coach: I'd like to be able to use consequences when my 6-year-old son doesn't listen or misbehaves. The problem is I struggle to know what would be a good consequence. I know other people take away sweets. I've had my own eating issues, so I don't feel comfortable using food as a punishment. What else could I take away that would be effective in curbing behavior? -- Tapped Out

Dear Tapped: Kids can be very motivated when there are clear expectations and definitive consequences should the expectations not be met. However, finding the right consequence for the right child is more than half the battle; it's the whole war. If the child doesn't care about the consequence, he won't be motivated to improve his behavior.


There are so many good choices of consequences for a school-aged child. You could limit time with a favorite toy, or shut down video games, the iPad or the computer. You might try an earlier bedtime, or the loss of bedtime stories or cuddle time. It might seem harsh, but that's the point: The consequence must be meaningful. Requiring extra chores, canceling a play date or an outing, or losing allowance can be excellent motivators.

Two tips about imposing consequences: Make them logically tied to the offense, and be sure to follow through no matter what comes up. Even if there is tantrum or an embarrassing scene, impose the consequence. If your child is displeased, then he will remember to act differently next time.


Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Copyright 2017 Creators Syndicate Inc.


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