Should You Punish Your Kids or Use Natural Consequences?
Principles always have natural consequences attached to them. There are positive consequences when we live in harmony with the principles. There are negative consequences when we ignore them. But because these principles apply to everyone, whether or not they are aware, this limitation is universal. And the more we know of correct principles, the greater is our personal freedom to act wisely.” -Stephen Covey
When your kid faces a natural consequence, he/she is facing the outcome of a decision he has made, whether or not the outcome of that decision is understood, as opposed to punishment, which is an imposed consequence for a decision that was made in spite of any understanding or warning the child may have been given.
How can natural consequences benefit your kid?
- By teaching kids they are accountable for their actions
- By providing direct (or indirect) cause-and-effect connections between the child’s actions and the results of those actions
- By providing a lesson the child can implement and use successfully in the near future
- By empowering the child to make a better decision next time because the kid has not lost hope in the process. This factor is very important and one of the most significant differences between natural consequences and punishment.
What about punishment?
In order to make my point regarding how behaviorists define punishment, I am returning to my example in my previous blog post Do You Discipline Your Children Effectively? Remember, I was stranded on the side of the road because I had run out of gas. Well, let’s say that, as soon as the tow truck driver arrives he starts yelling at me. “Gosh! Sheesh, how could you let this happen lady? What were you thinking? You are so irresponsible!”
Do you ever sound like the truck driver with your kid? How would the truck driver’s punitive response help me learn the lesson I’d learned earlier about filling up before my trip? Good luck getting a tip, tow truck man!
Kids function in the same way. They will remember the horrible way they were made to feel: ashamed, belittled, guilty, and like a bad person, instead of learning any valuable lesson about their bad behavior or poor choice.
Punishment, by definition, is when you as a parent impose or apply something negative in response to a bad behavior. That something may take the form of: shouting, yelling, threats, or taking all privileges away (not just the one that was related to the child’s action). That kind of response ends up punishing the child, instead of focusing on behavior change.
Sometimes, parents see short-term results by using punishment. In fact, it is quite possible to see short-term results because fear is a powerful emotion. But remember that FEAR is not the same as hope, and long-term experience of fear and exposure to punishment plants seeds of retaliation, retribution, and revenge. When punishment is used, long-term results are not positive. The questions you may want to ask yourself are:
- “Do I want to create a happy kid who learns about accountability and responsibility through hope and feeling empowered to make better decisions?”
- OR…”Do I want to create a fearful kid who grows up angry and rebellious in the face of responsibility and who feels insecure about his decisions?”
Punishment takes away children’s power to make better choices. It may even change the way they feel about themselves, and who they are. The child may feel like he or she is a bad person, when in fact, the child may be a good kid who made a bad decision. Punishment is often used by angry parents, which creates a very dangerous combination. Many times, parents who habitually use punishment may cross the line when they are irritated or furious. At times, punishment may take the form of an extreme negative reaction, and worse, it may take the form of taking away the child’s rights! This situation is not only unacceptable, but it is often illegal. Here, I am only concerned with forms of punishment that do not disregard a child’s rights. Shouting, yelling, threats, and removal of all privileges are not proper methods for raising emotionally secure children.
So, what is the optimal solution? Create a balance between: natural consequences for poor choices or bad behavior; and rewards (or re-enforcement) for good behavior or appropriate choices.
This is an excerpt taken from my book: “Create Happy Kids”
If you would like to read more you can order 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.