BA, DTM, CCFE, Conference speaker, trainer and best-selling author
Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery
Judy Arnall is Canada's expert on non-punitive parenting and education practices.
In groups, I get asked all the time if consequences are punitive. It depends. Consequences are natural outcomes that occur if a parent intervenes or not. Yes, consequences happen to kids all the time when they are out and about in the world. The rest of the world will issue consequences to your child, but only you, as the parent, will take the time and effort to problem-solve with them. Children will get consequences from teachers, coaches, police, and other adults. That’s okay. Those people are not building a life-long relationship with your child. You are. When you take the time and effort to problem-solve, you are giving your child valuable life and relationship skills – negotiation. Your communication lines will remain open and you will enjoy a wonderful relationship with your child. Here are the differences between consequences issued by a parent in the name of punishment, and problem-solving which is a form of non-punitive discipline.
Share to spread the concept of non-punitive parenting
In parenting classes, I often get asked the following question:
When I give my 11 year-old daughter a consequence, she insists that I am being mean to her. I believe that it is respectful discipline. What is the difference between consequences and a punishment?
Brain development stage: Between the ages of 5 and 12, most children figure out that they are not choosing the consequence, and it is the parents imposing the order on them in the name of discipline. If the child doesn’t see the point, she may experience it as a punishment.
Here are the differences:
Consequences are parent imposed. The conflict is now between the parent and child. Problem-solving is the parent and child working together to come up with a solution to fix the problem. The conflict is now between the parent-child team against the problem (even if the child caused it.)
Problem-solving is a more real-world skill. It teaches kids how to fix things, make restitution, repair relationships and make things right.
Consequences are focused on the child, where problem-solving is focused on the end result; a common goal.
Consequences tend to be one solution. Problem-solving can be many solutions that would take care of the problem. The goal is repair, whereas the goal of consequences is to teach the child a lesson, which is punitive.
Consequences are almost always designed to hurt a child – either financially (pay for a broken item), socially (grounding or taking away cell phone), emotionally (time-out) or physically (hard physical labor). Problem-solving is designed to be pain-neutral. The goal is not to hurt the child, but help the situation. The goal is to fix the problem. Sometimes that is financial or physical, but the payoff is that the child feels good that they are now owning the solution and not just the problem. Children are very fair and more likely to dive into helping fix the problem when they know they caused it, because the focus is no longer on what they did, but what they can do to make it right. When they can put effort into fixing the problem, they feel better about themselves, learn real-world solutions and will make better decisions in the future.
Parents argue, “Yes, but it works! Consequences change my child behaviour!” That may be correct, but the price is impaired communication. Parents wonder why they don’t enjoy the open, caring, free communication that they once had with their child. They wonder why they are receiving attitude and silence. Pushback of imposed consequences comes in many forms. Ditch the consequences and use the adult method of problem-solving.
Share to spread the concept of non-punitive parenting
Help us get the word out! We are promoting the concept, research and implementation of SELF-DIRECTED EDUCATION (both in and out of school). I’ve had to wait until we had our third university graduate. We’ve launched a project on Kickstarter! For as little as $10, (in which you get a copy of the book), you can support the costs of launching the book titled Unschooling To University: How to impassion your disengaged learner. Just go to Kickstarter.com, register as a guest (anonymous), and search for Unschooling To University or Judy Arnall. Thanks!
This meme has been floating around my groups and I have to say that I totally disagree with it. First, I am the worst model of this. Email comes first in the morning with my cup of tea. Every person has to find a routine that works for them.
Second, it sounds so dictatorial. Real relationship parenting starts with a conversation of concerns. I wouldn’t have a list like this for my husband as it is too disrespectful and neither would I have it for my children.
Third, the list defeats the intent. I can see a kid getting through this list in a half hour and then spending all day on electronics. When the parent’s protest, the kids says, “I followed the rules!” All the things on the list should be done without an expectation of reward. Kids naturally like to help. It will come with age and maturity, not bribery.
Fourth, children naturally develop self-control as they age. They naturally decide when and how to get dressed, shower, tidy their room, help out with dishes, and clean a room.
Fifth, as an unschooler who has never put limits on screen time when my kids were older than 6 years (there are lots of research that show children under six are at risk for language development with increased use of electronics), Canadian Pediatric Society Announces a New Position Statement on Screen Time for Young Children I see no problem with hours and hours on screens with older children. The kids learn so much from the internet and playing video games. I do encourage the kid’s self-discipline to build in some exercise time, in their day. They are already very creative on screens with making memes, mods and stuff. Summer learning loss never happens when kids are allowed access to the internet – in fact, they have the time to learn what they truly want to learn, not what the government dictates what they want to learn. Here is a good article on why kids should be on screens all summer! https://www.ucalgarymag.ca/issue/spring-summer-2017/article/unlocking-skills-power-brain-games