Are consequences a discipline tool or a form of punishment?

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, jarnall@shaw.ca, 403-714-6766

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What’s Next? The Hunger Games: Toddler Edition?

I’m seeing the movie on Friday and my daughter, 17, has insisted I read the book before the movie. It’s definitely subject matter that appeals to teens and pre-teens, but as a parent and adult, I am horrified that the movie industry will stoop this low. Killing kids in movies have always been taboo, and I fear that this is now the edge of a very slippery slope. What’s next, “The Hunger Games: Toddler Edition”?

My daughter insists that the violence is not what kids are attending the movie for. It’s the story of the lead girl’s challenge to stay alive in order to bring good to the family and communities. I agree, in that most kids don’t play video games for the violence. They play for the challenge of the game, which is also a central theme in The Hunger Games, and the violence is secondary, however, it is still there. I’m waiting to see how much violence the movie is going to show.

I know that for me, the book was very readable up to the point where the games actually started and the huge bloodbath for supplies had kids dropping all over. We are talking 12 year-olds! My youngest son, at 10, isn’t very good at crossing the street alone. People don’t think 12 year olds aren’t children? The details are horrifying for any parent: Little children lying dying alone with spears and knives in their backs and their parents get to watch it from the screens in their homes? Parents have only an hour to say goodbye to their children. They can’t hold their dying children. Some of the children are tortured by being denied food, water and shelter . The details describe children slowly freezing, dehydrating and burning to death. Can you imagine if the children were toddlers instead of teens in that arena? 24 little two-year-olds, in the most aggressive developmental stage, being given access to a pile of knives and then led to a tiny lot of a few toys to battle it out. Is that next?

First, our society and media sexualizes children at younger and younger ages, and now, they do the same with violence. I don’t know how much more reading I can take. But then again, I couldn’t watch the movie, “Sophie’s Choice” after I became a parent either. Killing children in movies, books or any media is just not acceptable, even if it’s by the children themselves.

Judy Arnall, Parenting Author, Educator and Speaker

Faceoook Parenting for the Troubled Dad of Teen

It would be interesting to see what led up to the daughters frantic posting. I wonder if teens are being more disrespectful these days
because most parents punish their kids in disrespectful ways? Which comes first, rebellion and then punishment or punishment and then rebellion?
As a child, my parents would react like the video dad did (not with a gun, but destroying my treasures) and to this day, I find it hard to
communicate with them as adults. I remember so well the intense anger I felt and left home at 17. When I look back, I wished that they had
taken parenting courses (all they had back then was PET) because there are so many better ways to deal with children’s disrespect.
The memories of my childhood have faded … yet, that video will be around until that daughter is in her sixties. Does her Dad want her
to relive that over and over and over again? I think that yes, she was disrespectful and stupid to post it, but Dad could just quit paying
for her cell, internet and all the million other things he probably does for her. As the mom of two teens and two young adults, I have never
punished them, ever, in their teen years, and they are in no way disrespectful to me or others. We have a problem – we talk. If they have a
problem with chores, they talk. It’s the adult way. Respect must be mutual in love relationships. I would treat them as I do to any other adult.
I certainly wouldn’t blow away my husband’s laptop. Why would I do it to my other love relationships? Posted by Judy Arnall, author of the bestseller “Discipline Without
Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery.”

How to discipline toddler hitting, biting, throwing and tantrums