Let ‘Em Feel the Pain!

Over the years, I’ve had the good fortune of dozens of grandparents bringing their grandchildren to my karate school. After they had been with us for awhile and I was able to establish a good relationship with them, I asked them, “Why are you bringing your grandkids to karate? Where are their parents?” In many cases, I would hear that the grandparents were the children’s primary caregivers. The parents had skipped town, were in prison, or dead from a drug overdose.


In light of their answers, I then respectfully asked them, “If you could turn back the clock and go back to when they were kids, what would you do differently—what would you change?” Amazingly, almost every grandparent has answered, “I didn’t let them feel the consequences of their actions. Instead, I made excuses for them, I cut them slack, and I wish I hadn’t. I knew the teacher, the principal, the judge, the cop, and I got them out of trouble. So they never learned the consequences of wrong choices when their troubles were a tiny sapling, and as a result their troubles grew into great oak trees.”


As parents, you can learn a valuable lesson from the pain of others. Train your children when they are little. Let them feel the consequences of their inappropriate behavior. Let them stay after school for poor behavior in the classroom, even if it means you have to make and extra trip. Don’t argue with a teacher about a grade on a test. If they fail a class and have to retake it in summer school rather than go to camp because they goofed off during the year, they will learn a valuable lesson. As hard as these consequences may seem, they may be just the thing your son or daughter needs to keep them from going through greater hardship later in life.


If they are not listening to you and being polite when they are five years old, the situation will only become exponentially worse when they are seventeen. Consequences should be smart, swift, and real at any age. Remove privileges like cell phone and weekend activities if you receive reports of disrespect to teachers or authorities. Take away their car if they begin drinking and doing drugs. Let them get kicked off the football team or do community service because they got caught with alcohol.


Yes, cushion your kids’ consequences with compassion and understanding. They are constantly learning and transitioning into the role of self-sufficient adult. You should hug them, love them, and pray with them that God will help them through it. But, don’t take away the consequences. They must feel the pain of the poor choices they make when the consequences are safe and within your control.


“Poverty and shame come to him who refuses instruction and correction, but he who heeds reproof is honored” (Proverbs 13:18).

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