Punishing children comes naturally to most of us parents. There is an important distinction between a punishment versus a consequence. Parents are often unclear about the difference between consequences and punishment. A consequence is the result or direct effect of an action The goal for applying consequences is to let the children know that each of their action would have a result. Whether they like the result or not, is a separate thing. Whereas, the definition of punishment is to cause to suffer.
Forming impartial, age-appropriate consequences that really teach a lesson rather than just produce discomfort can take some creativity and thought. However, creativity and thought are precisely two states of mind that people have difficulty entering into while they are upset or angry. For this reason, it is better for parents to think up consequences in advance, in fact co create consequences with their children. This not only builds a sense of responsibility in the child, it also drives home accountability. Let me explain –
Effective consequences will tend to be ones that naturally follow from the misbehaviour, or which are logically related to the misbehaviour. Naturally or logically connected consequences imitate the way consequences truly work in the actual world, and therefore make intuitive sense to children. The methodology to attain this with children is what we have already discussed in the article before.
True natural consequences are automatic and unpleasant outcomes that happen as a direct result of kids’ choices. Parents don’t have to brainstorm these consequences; they just happen. For example, when older children regularly leave their bicycle outside it may be stolen, hit by an adult driving down the highway, or get rusty from the rain. As a result, children lose the ability to ride their bikes because they are ruined or lost. Children will then learn to take care of their bicycles and their property. Being exposed to natural consequences of misbehaviours (rather than being protected from them) helps children to learn how to think through on their own what the consequences of their actions are likely to be.
This is the major love-motivated purpose of disciplining children in the first place; so that they will grow up to be self-guiding, effective adults.
Natural consequences can be effective teachers; however, natural consequences can also be incredibly dangerous! It is more important to keep children safe from harm than to teach them lessons. Parents should always evaluate the possible outcomes of allowing a natural consequence to happen. For example, letting a child get hit by a car when he runs out into the street is never an acceptable type of natural consequence (even though it is likely to teach surviving children to stay on the sidewalk in the future). Obviously, running in the street is a very extreme example, but parents need to keep kids’ safety in mind even when consequences are less deadly.
Logical consequences are artificial (not direct or automatic, but rather, imposed) consequences that parents create and enforce in order to teach children important lessons about choices and behaviours. Logical consequences work best when they are co created in advance, and positioned to occur as a direct result of misbehaviour. Let me share the example of one of our parents from NO LIMIT CHILD PROGRAM – They brought a costly branded sports shoe for their daughter, it was mutually agreed that she would take care of the shoes and in case she lost them, tore them , for the entire year ; she would have to make do with whatever she has. Unfortunately, she lost her shoes and as agreed, the entire year she continued her sports practice with a pair of old shoes that she had borrowed from her cousin.
Whether using a natural or logical consequence, parents should simply and briefly explain the consequence to their kids and not allow themselves to get drawn into an argument or debate. Should children not respond to the parents’ communication of consequences and mend their ways, parents must follow through and deliver the consequences all of the time. If parents forget, back down, or don’t follow through with the consequence as promised even just a few times, children will learn that consequences aren’t real (or at least, can be manipulated) and this knowledge will double their efforts to misbehave again in the future (because they will think they can get away with it).
Co created consequences don’t put the onus of discipline solely on the parent. They rather teach the children accountability. Children learn to own up their actions and the consequences of the choices they make. What better way than this to prepare them for the Real Life !