Generally speaking, I think consequences for children should be predictable. Children should know that getting too rowdy is asking for a time-out, saying something unkind to a sister means he has to think of something kind to say, and so on.
Today, we were on our way to the library for storytime, and one of our children disobeyed. I told the child that since he chose to disobey, we could not stay for storytime. And we left (much to their disappointment).
Now… I’m aware of the dangers of disciplining multiple children for one child’s misbehavior (the net effect of my impulsive decision). In this case, I don’t think the other child cared one way or the other (partly because of interest, partly because of age). What I’m wondering is if this was too arbitrary. Now, I have left park playgrounds because of disobedience on at least one other occasion, so maybe it’s not that arbitrary. I’m hesitant to promise leaving an activity because of obedience simply because it’s not always possible or desirable to do so. Perhaps I’ve got a doctor appointment, or am out of town. I know of parents who won’t allow their children to attend youth group activities because of misbehavior, and I don’t really like that.
I’ve had other times when I’ve attempted to impose consequences for misbehavior appropriate for the crime (like cleaning up a mess when it’s made), but sometimes feel uneasy, because it’s possible the child wasn’t expecting such correction. At the same time, I don’t think it’s possible to have a chart listing every possible misbehavior, and the specific consequence. Maybe a happy middle? Certain misbehaviors consistently get a specific discipline (after all, most misbehavior is one a few categories). The “other misbehavior” category mom (or dad) gets to choose. Maybe there can be a typical consequence (like if we misbehave while in town, we will probably go home, particularly if it is a “fun” activity (like the park or our city zoo).