CONSEQUENCES AS A DISCIPLINE TOOL
By Judy Arnall
Consequences are the natural outcome from our behaviours. Every action that we humans do has a consequence. For our children, consequences are a powerful learning tool that tells them if their decision was a responsible one or a careless one. Experiencing the consequence from their action helps them to modify their future behaviour to enjoy better outcomes. Natural consequences are those outcomes that happen without the intervention of parents. Sometimes, letting children experience the natural consequence is too dangerous, such as letting a two-year-old experience the traffic in the street, because traffic may hit them. Logical consequences are arranged by the parents to teach a child the probable outcome of their behaviour and how to solve the ensuing problem. For example, a two-year-old is confined to the back yard because he runs out on the road when he’s in the front yard. This solves the safety problem for the parent and the child.
There are several guidelines when using consequences as a respectful and effective discipline tool.
Consequences must be related to the behaviour. For example, a messy room might mean that the floor is too cluttered for Mom to put away the child’s laundry so the child must do it himself. An unrelated consequence would be Nintendo confiscated for a week until the room is cleaned up.
Consequences must be reasonable. If a parenting makes the child pay 10 times the cost of an item that he has broken, it could be seen as unfair by the child. Realistically, the child should only pay for the replacement cost. Often, we issue consequences in anger and they are often unreasonable. To ensure that consequences stay reasonable, calm down first, and then ask yourself if the consequence is something that you would expect from a spouse or friend. If it is, then it probably is reasonable. If a friend breaks your item, an apology and a replacement is something that you would expect. Teach your child the same solution.
Consequences must be realistic and you must be comfortable doing it. Mom telling the child that the play date will end if the child acts up one more time, may not be enforceable, if Mom is enjoying chatting with the other mom on the play date, and unwilling to cut the time short.
Consequences must be consistent. Leaving the store in the middle of grocery shopping because of bad behaviour is very inconvenient, but if done consistently, the child soon learns that if they act up, the shopping trip is over.
Consequences must not be used as a punishment. How to tell? If you threaten a certain outcome to get compliance, then the consequence is probably being used as a punishment, which could invite a power struggle, resentment, rebellion, shutdown of communication, etc. The consequence of parents imposing a consequence on children is that children decide to stop talking to parents. Children know that the consequence arises from the parents imposing it, not from the fact that they may have “chose” the outcome. For this reason, avoid threats. Just impose the consequence matter-of-factly. If you get push back from the child, then go to problem-solving to remedy the situation. The best consequences focus on teaching restitution, solving problems and making amends. If a child spills a drink because she was careless pouring, she wipes up the mess. A child who hits another child needs to be separated, calmed down, and told the rule. The restitution part might be to offer the other child a toy, hug or an apology after the emotions have been dealt with.
Consequences won’t work when the underlying feeling/need of the child is not addressed. In those cases, a consequence is the wrong discipline tool to choose. For example, a child who consistently refuses to wear a bike helmet even after having the bike locked away several times may have a good reason for not wearing it. Perhaps he is being teased because it looks babyish. Locking away a child’s bike for a week for not wearing his helmet might be too severe and the child could perceive it as unfair. A sit down problem solving talk to find out why the child is not wearing his helmet, can help to get buy-in from him to find a solution to the problem. He must wear a helmet, but there are many alternatives available when child and parent get together to brainstorm. Does he find the helmet too nerdy? Does he wish to pay half on a new one? Can he borrow his siblings? Can he buy a cool second hand one? Either solution will mean that the bike still doesn’t get used without a helmet, but brainstorming provides other options.
Listening and mutual parent-child problem-solving are better tools used to uncover and address the underlying need. When used properly, consequences teach children appropriate behaviour in a positive way and should be in every parent’s discipline toolbox.
Judy Arnall, BA, DTM, CCFE is a professional international award-winning Parenting and Teacher Conference Speaker, and Trainer, Mom of five children, and author of the best-selling book, Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery and the new DVD, Plugged-In Parenting: Connecting with the digital generation for health, safety and love as well as the new book, The Last Word on Parenting Advice http://www.professionalparenting.ca, firstname.lastname@example.org, 403-714-6766
We brought our two children (a toddler and a baby) to England and Ireland on our first family overseas trip in 1996. During that first trip, we were introduced to the travelling perils of sick infants on cars, trains, ships and aircraft, and jet-lag sleep schedule disruption, and the wonderful task of hauling cumbersome baby travel gear around. Since that trip, our family has grown to five children, and we have logged another six overseas trips. Our recent holiday was to Australia with our five children, ages 5 to 16, for six weeks. During our flight home, listening to a mother in front of me coping with a toddler tantrum, I reflected that it is easier in many ways to travel with older children. They can carry their own bags and they can immerse themselves in books or movies during long flights. But older children do have their own challenges, such as becoming downright uncooperative when facing situations that they don’t like, picking fights with each other when bored, and becoming just as expensive as adults when venues charge full fare for kids over 12.
Although it can be hard work for parents, children of all ages benefit immensely from travelling. Travel is a multi-sensory learning experience that is much richer than textbooks, videos or classrooms. In addition to the obvious academic facts that they absorb from visiting science centers, zoos, aquariums, art galleries, wildlife parks and museums (such as the quantity flow model demonstrating Pythagorean theorem at the Perth science center), children learn many important life-skills while travelling, such as these:
- Perspective: They learn that home is actually not that bad, compared to some of the rest of the world. Tripping over each other in a 500 square foot cabin helped us appreciate that we have a home to call our own.
- Group decisions: They learn that they must either provide positive leadership to the group, or must go along with group decisions. Not everyone can get their way even some of the time.
- Consideration: They learn that when we are guests of others, we must be considerate of their plans, their home and their possessions. They learn to ask permission, that they must limit noise and clutter, and cannot just raid the fridge. They also learn how to socialize with hosts.
- Adaptability: Things go wrong, such as missing sleeping bags, not enough pillows, unexpected weather, no transportation, lost mp3 players as well as dealing with clean laundry too wet to pack. Children learn to accept and/or make-do. Our motto when things went wrong while travelling was “Oh well”. Sometimes it was either laugh about it or cry about it!
- Problem solving: When adapting to new situations or circumstances, children learn how to solve problems. They can brainstorm options and help choose the best ones. Our 15-year-old and ten-year-old son got lost on a hiking trip. I was astounded at their problem-solving ability to find their way back to the camp, all the while not knowing what camp, city or state we were staying at in Australia.
- Different rules: Rules and courtesies we take for granted in our country are not the same in many other countries. For example, chewing gum is illegal in Singapore.
- Patience: Travel requires so much waiting around that children learn to be patient. They wait in long lines for check-in, for security, and for boarding. They wait for take-off, they wait for food, and they wait for the washroom. They wait for landing and more line-ups. It’s endless.
- Self-entertainment: Children learn how to cope with boredom from lack of media devices and electronic devices. When mp3 players, DVD players and laptops are not available for playtime, they get into sandcastle building, drawing, card games, board games, word games, scavenger hunts and good old-fashioned conversation.
- Socializing: They learn to be polite to relatives that they have never met before, and discover to their surprise that they find them likeable. They learn that strangers can be friends for travelers and it’s okay and enjoyable to strike up a conversation with them.
- Logistics: For older children that wish to get involved in trip planning, they learn useful skills such as how to book itineraries, rentals, and accommodations. They can learn how to acquire documentation such as passports, visas and consent letters. They learn the protocol for security at airports and museums. They also learn mapping, budgeting, and documentation (photos and journals) skills. They learn how to secure transportation and groceries.
- Tolerance: Travelling with family members means that for a few weeks or days, family members live in close proximity with each other full time. That means siblings constantly in each other’s faces. Children get very practiced at learning how to cope with different quirks, personalities and people’s feelings. They may discover a side of a sibling that they never noticed before and actually quite like.
With all these travel benefits, it’s no wonder that many families take several vacations a year together. Whether staying in a tent, trailer, cabin, cottage, hostel, hotel or visiting relatives, travel provides an experience of a lifetime for both parents and children. Guaranteed, it will never be boring. Have a fun and safe summer!
Judy Arnall is a professional international award-winning Parenting Speaker, and Trainer, Mom of five children, and author of the best-selling book, “Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery” and the new DVD, “Plugged-In Parenting: Connecting with the Digital Generation for Health, Safety and Love” www.professionalparenting.ca (403) 714-6766 email@example.com
Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery
Discipline that you and your child will feel good about!
Now an International Bestseller!
At last, a positive discipline book that is chock-full of practical tips, strategies, skills, and ideas for parents of babies through teenagers, and tells you EXACTLY what to do “in the moment” for every type of behavior, from whining to web surfing.
Parents and children today face very different challenges from those faced by the previous generation. Today’s children play not only in the sandbox down the street, but also in the World Wide Web, which is too big and complex for parents to control and supervise. As young as age four, your children can contact the world, and the world can contact them. A strong bond between you and your child is critical in order for your child to regard you as their trusted advisor. Traditional discipline methods, no longer work with today’s children and they destroy your ability to influence your increasingly vulnerable children who need you as their lifeline! You need new discipline tools!
Help your child gain:
• Strong communication skills for school, career, and relationship success.
• Healthy self-esteem, confidence, and greater emotional intelligence.
• Assertiveness, empathy, problem solving, and anger-management skills.
• A respectful, loving connection with you!
You will gain:
• An end to resentment, frustration, anger, tears, and defiance in your parent-child relationship.
• Tools to respectfully handle most modern challenging parenting situations, including biting, hitting, tantrums, bedtimes, picky eating, chores, homework, sibling wars, smoking, “attitude,” and video/computer games.
• Help for controlling your anger “in the moment” during those trying times.
• A loving, respectful, teaching and fun connection with your child!
“Offers a wealth of ideas and suggestions for raising children without the use of punishment of any kind.” Linda Adams, President and CEO of Gordon Training International
Are you too busy to read? This DVD is for you! PLUGGED-IN PARENTING offers two hours of tips, ideas and non-punitive strategies for parenting digital children from babies to teenagers, in every aspect of digital intelligence including cybersafety, netiquette, cyberbullying, social media guidelines, health promotion and even the academic benefits of computer and video-gaming. You will appreciate the valuable parenting demonstrations that show how to keep kids connected to you while you set healthy limits on video/computer games, social media and cellphones. This DVD is ideal for busy parents and caregivers who want accurate researched information but have little time to read books. Keep your digital children safe, healthy and happy, without losing your vital relationship connection!
Authored by Judy Arnall, the bestselling author of “Discipline Without Distress: 135 Tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery.”
Available at Chapters.Indigo
and Amazon.com and Amazon.ca
For parents and children who dislike the impact of homework on their family time. Here is a template of a letter to send to school before the first parent-teacher interviews. It’s meant as a starting place for discussion of homework and schoolwork boundaries.
Thank you for teaching our child this year. We as a family strive to live a balanced life that includes a variety of activities. Those activities include volunteering in the community, family social time, rituals and celebrations, part-time jobs, music and art lessons, sports, fellowship clubs, church and much-needed downtime. We value those activities as much as learning academic subjects in school.
In order to make time for these activities; we need to establish boundaries that provide a fair division between school instructional time and homework that encroaches upon outside-school time. Therefore, our family homework policy is as follows:
_________(Your Family Name Here) Family Homework Policy:
The school assignments that are not given adequate instructional class time to complete in school hours, will not be completed at home.
We expect our children to give their best effort and concentration in the ___ hours of instructional class time that the government legislates and the school provides in order for our children to complete the required credits and marks. They can also use any school spares they have to complete school work between the hours of 9:00am and 3:30pm. I expect the school to provide adequate time and instruction in class for the student to complete the government requirements of the entire course.
We expect that our children will not be socially penalized within the classroom for our implementation of the Family Homework Policy, and will not be academically penalized in terms of marks for work that can’t be completed within the allotted school time. The current available research supports our belief that supplemental homework is not required for adequate mastery of the subject matter. We appreciate that you respect our decision on how to spend our time at home as much as we respect your decisions regarding your time/curriculum management at school.
Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.
“Help! My Child won’t do Their Homework!”
Suggestion and Ideas for Getting More Homework Co-operation and Less Power Struggles
- Give choices in subject matter, time, or place of study. E.g. Would the child like to do Math or English today? When is their best, most alert time of day? Would they like to study in their rooms, outside, or on the couch?
- Alternate bookwork days with outing days. Consider helping the child learn in a different way with an outing or field trip instead of researching books.
- Consider giving tests first and if the concepts are mastered, eliminate the text material. Cuts down on boredom and busywork. If you know your child knows the material, talk to the teacher and request less homework.
- Present the material in a fun way and geared to child’s learning style. Use learning aids such as movies, cookie fractions, board and action games such as multiplication tag. Children in elementary school love to learn through play.
- Follow interests as much as possible, if not in format, then in content. For example, if the child has to write essay or book report, perhaps he could choose the topic or book.
- Use rewards if they work for your child. Stickers, passes for fun outings and computer time are some choices from parents. Have a jar of 200 dimes (one for each school day). Any day the child does homework, put in one dime. The child can keep the money at the end of the year.
- Avoid power struggles. Put your relationship building first. Try and approach learning another way. Listen to why your child doesn’t want to do the work.
- For those hesitant writers, try being the scribe while the child dictates ideas. Or try letting them write on the computer, which is easier on little hands.
- For those hesitant readers, try picking up an enticing children’s book and reading out loud. Your child might come join you if it’s not forced. Model reading yourself. Cuddle on the couch with a child and make reading a fun, cozy, exciting time. Use vocal variety and stop when the child is not longer interested.
- Keep a routine going when you figure out the best time of day for bookwork. This has to work for you and your child. Not all children are “right after school” people”. Be kind but firm in sticking to a routine. Children need some structure.
- Have a written contract each week, month or year that is signed and agreed to by the parent and child, about what work must be completed for that time period.
- Children often learn better by discovery than by being told. Lead them to an experiential activity that would reinforce concepts.
- Some months are better than others. Children go through spurts and plateaus and most do not learn in tidy sequential steps. During a plateau, trust that the desire and motivation will come back.
- Assimilation of material takes time. Plan for playtime, down time and many breaks (minutes, days, weeks and even months).
- Create a learning environment of fun, curiosity and good feelings. Make sure everyone is fed, rested, comfortable and non-stressed!
- Never punish for not doing the work. You want to create a climate for lifelong learning and enjoyment of the pursuit of knowledge. Remember, your job is to facilitate learning. Nudge, but don’t force!
Judy Arnall is a professional international award-winning Parenting Speaker, and Trainer, Mom of five children, and author of the best-selling, “Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery” She specializes in “Parenting the Digital Generation” www.professionalparenting.ca (403) 714-6766 firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright permission granted for “reproduction without permission” of this article in whole or part, if the above credit is included in its entirety.