Do You Discipline Your Children Effectively?
“Conscience is less an inner voice than the memory of a mother’s glance” – Robert Brault
In all my years of parent training, I have found that families have two common goals with regard to discipline. Parents want their kids to:
- Learn the difference between right and wrong.
- Learn accountability (to learn to take responsibility for their mistakes, and ultimately, learn from those mistakes.)
These disciplinary goals are universal, noble, and valuable in creating happy kids!
The challenges and struggles are in the methods and approaches some families use to teach kids how to discriminate between right and wrong and how to learn accountability. So many parents resort to punishment when they feel nothing they have tried has worked. Or, they take a faster route of shouting and punishing to make a point quickly and have an impact. Let’s focus on the difference using natural consequences vs. punishment, and how one method is more effective than the other in helping you reach your disciplinary goals.
Let’s begin by talking about Natural Consequences…
Natural consequences are the results of the child’s own action. As most of us know, for every action, there is a reaction. As adults, we deal with this concept on a daily basis. For example, if I don’t put gas in the car, my car eventually will stop running, and I’ll be stranded on the side of the road. What is the lesson here? Well, maybe I’ll learn some accountability for filling the gas tank before my next trip. That is a very valuable lesson! Sure, I may feel bad or frustrated as a direct result of my own action, but the lesson is learned, and more importantly, I may not make that mistake in the future. With kids, the process is similar. A natural consequence of their behavior can be the most valuable and effective tool for teaching them about accountability and the difference between right and wrong.
Previously we discussed the importance of having an agreement with your child regarding expectations. Well, this is another place where that suggestion comes in very handy. For example, let’s say you have an agreement with Josh (your eight-year-old son) that states: “First, do your homework; then you get to go see your friend, Aiden.” If little Josh doesn’t complete his homework, then he won’t get to go to his friend’s house later. That outcome is the direct result of his actions, based on your (clear and fair) agreement. If Josh wants to go to his friend’s house, then it’s clear to him what he needs to do: take care of his responsibilities first (by doing his homework).
This approach puts the child in control of his own choices/actions. As the parent, you can simply explain to your kid, “We have an agreement. I trust you can take care of your part, and if you need any help, then, I’m here for you.” And then add a supportive comment, such as, “When you do (take care of your responsibility), then you’ll enjoy the privileges.” So, if the kid doesn’t take care of his responsibility, he only has one person to hold accountable: himself. The child learns a valuable lesson and tries to prevent a negative consequence) in the future. When kids learn that they have the power to create a different result (a positive reaction, rather than a negative consequence), they feel empowered to make better decisions based on HOPE.
One summer day, while playing in the sandbox in the backyard, three-year-old Claudia chose to carry a bucket of water all by herself (despite her mom’s offer of help and warnings that she might get wet), and of course, Claudia ended up getting all wet. Well Claudia only had herself to hold responsible for that outcome. Once she stopped crying, her mom reassured her she was okay, and she explained to Claudia that next time she could ask for help. Lesson learned. Claudia realized she had made a mistake, but she had hope for the next time she needed to get her bucket of water from the hose to the sandbox. Whether or not the lesson would be remembered by a three-year-old is another matter, of course. But the point is: Claudia learned a valuable lesson regarding actions and natural consequences. In addition, in this example, Claudia was also offered an option to prevent her mistake in the future. Children as young as six months old can learn the simple concept of action and reaction.
In my next article I’ll discuss the differences between natural consequences and punishment and their results.
This is an excerpt taken from my book: “Create Happy Kids”
If you would like to read more you can 0rder your copy today by clicking on the “Buy Now” button at the right.
I am available to do Parent Education Workshops, either Private or PTA Sponsored Classes. Contact me at 425-772-6698.