As always… parenting isn’t a method, it’s a relationship (and no relationships are perfect), and what works in one situation might not work in the next. This is only examples:
Here is a story of natural consequences. How experiential learning, along with adult support, can work. The setting is a tepee camp on the Great Plains in the 1800s, and the storyteller is Standing Bear, an Oglala Lakota:
“One day…I started a small riot in camp by accidentally hitting a pony….One of my arrows bounced off the ground and struck a pony in the tender part of the jaw. The pony was all packed his household goods and had been peacefully grazing. When suddenly startled with the blow from the arrow, he began lunging about. That caused the pack to fall off, scattering things all over the ground. This frightened the animal, and he started to run. Other animals became frightened at the commotion and began to run also.
“Soon the entire camp was in a state of excitement….Women ran here and there, men shouted, and finally there was disorder everywhere….I…expected to be scolded for my carelessness, but not a word was ever said to me, though I knew that my folks were fully aware that I was to blame for this uproar….I learned a good lesson that day, for deep within I resolved never to be so careless again. Little as I was, perhaps six or seven years of age, I realized that I had done something which I must not do again. To this day I look back upon my childhood and say with pride that, in all the days spent with my mother and father, never did I feel the sting and humiliation of a blow from their hands.” p. 90-92
Punishment vs Consequence
Inspired by situations in my life I feel a need to clarify the difference between Punishment and Consequences.
Punishments are not logical or natural. They tend to make kids feel bad. For example, if a child doesn’t do his homework, a punishment may include having to go to bed three hours early. Going to bed early and not doing his homework are not related. In essence, “the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.” A punishment like this isn’t going to lead to your child getting his homework done and instead, is likely to create relationship problems between you and your child.
When punishment is used it tends to make children focus on their anger toward their parents, rather than their own behaviors. This is counter-productive as it can result in children thinking “My mom is mean” rather than “I made a mistake.” Punishments are often given out of anger and fear, may be overly exaggerated, and may be very critical of the child. It often looks like a withdrawal of love in order to get the child to do what you want them to do. Often the focus is on the parent trying desperately to maintain control and trying to prove to the child that “I’m in charge whether you like it or not.” This approach doesn’t help kids develop new ways of taking responsibility for their behavior.
There are several problems with punishments:
– One problem is that children are not taught how to behave. For example, if a child hits his brother and then is given a ”time out”, he is not taught what to do the next time he feels angry with his brother.
– Punishment also teaches kids that they are not able to be in control of themselves. They often learn that their parents must manage their behaviors and feelings because they are not able to do it on their own. They also tend to lack the ability to make good decisions because their parents have always made their decisions for them.
– When children receive frequent punishments, they may grow up to be hostile and aggressive. When they receive a punishment, they often focus on how angry they are at their parents rather than thinking about how they can learn from their mistake. Parents who provide punishments are also inconsistent much of the time which can be quite anxiety-provoking for kids.
Consequences help all of us learn and grow. When kids and adults experience the effects of their actions, they get the chance to learn from their mistakes, make better choices and improve their behaviors.
When we were still living in nature it was most of the time Mother Nature who set the frame of what works and what doesn’t for us, in civilization us adults have to maintain that most of the time. Consequences give us the chance to parent from our culture of what works and what doesn’t, instead of from a place of frustration, anger, fear, disappointment etc etc.
Consequences communicate to your child that their behavior is their choice and their responsibility. And that your responsibility is to help them learn how to face the results of their choices, no matter how difficult or unpleasant. A consequence respects the child’s right to make a decision, even if it’s not a good one. It’s not a withdrawal of love or a rejection. It’s a matter-of-fact learning experience in which you maintain a better relationship with the child as you hold them accountable.
Of course, consequences are only effective if your child buys in and decides to change. It can be frustrating to hear that, but ultimately their behavior is up to them.
Consequences is basically about SETTING BOUNDARIES is a way to teach children/people in general how to manage their behaviors, learn from mistakes and take responsibility for their own behavior and learn alternative ways. For ex I was living with a 4 year old boy who repeatedly did things to other children that they didn’t like or took stuff away from children and adults. The consequence was that we stopped him by physically showing him it was not ok (saying ”no” didn’t work) and took the stuff away from him that he took. Another example is that we were going on a car-trip and we decided to have no screaming in the car, if you want to scream you can do that OUTSIDE. The same boy started screaming so we took him out of the car and stood with him until he realized that we don’t scream in the car. He didn’t scream in the car again. Children who don’t get boundaries feel very afraid because it’s like not having any secure adults around that you can lean on to tell you if life is safe or not. It feels very safe and relaxing for a child to be able to trust in that adults will hold the frame of what’s ok or not, then they can use their energy to play instead of trying to have control over life. Another example of setting boundaries is if your child leaves his Lego out and won’t clean it up, then a logical consequence would mean that he loses his right to choose when to play with the Lego. Instead the adults who have to clean it up will choose for him when he can play with it or not.
Another consequence is that ”what you radiate is what will be reflected towards you”. For ex if you are kind to someone, they’ll likely be kind in return.
Other consequences are a direct result of a child’s behaviors. For example, if a child jumps in mud puddles, his shoes will be wet. Or if a child refuses to eat all of his lunch, he will be hungry in time for dinner. Allowing for natural consequences allows children to learn first-hand about what results from their behaviors. Natural consequences can be offered when the consequence is safe. For example, you wouldn’t want to allow a child to touch a hot stove and receive the natural consequence of a serious burned. However, allowing your child to experience some discomfort, such as feeling cold when he refuses to wear a jacket on a cool day, may be helpful to his learning. If you overeat, the consequence can be a stomach ache. A natural consequence is also falling through the ice as in the picture above.