In a Nutshell: Using consistent Natural or Logical Consequences for children’s misbehavior is fair and effective.
Last week’s post on not yelling at kids got some interesting Facebook comments. There are lots of ways to have a successful family, but there is a common misconception that parents have to choose between yelling and hitting or letting kids grow up spoiled and unruly. (For more information on this see the post on Authoritarian, Permissive, and Authoritative Parenting.) The reason parents usually yell is to try to correct misbehavior. Can I offer another solution? Using consequences instead of yelling can teach the child, preserve the relationship, and save your voice.
In your GPS (Gain Perspective Session), take your notebook and make a list of things your kids do to misbehave and otherwise drive you crazy. Next to the behavior, write what currently happens after that misbehavior. Be honest with yourself! Maybe some entries would look like this…
Spencer hits his sister and makes her cry I tell him hitting is wrong and then spank him
Chloe won’t get dressed for school I yell at her from downstairs three times and threaten to leave her
Once you have your list, look it over with analytical eyes. Do you have an effective consequences in place? Or are your kids mostly getting nagged, chewed-out, threatened, hit, and guilt-tripped when they misbehave? Do you beg them to stop but never follow through? If you need a bit of fine tuning, here are some guidelines to help develop a system of consequences.
Natural Consequences: Consequences parents allow to happen, but do not create. They come from the environment, society, or nature.
1) Your son won’t put on his coat to play outside in the snow = He gets cold
2) A child won’t complete homework assignments = Their teacher has them miss recess
3) You ask a child to leave a toy in the car so it doesn’t get lost = The toy gets lost in the store
These situations are just examples, and sometimes these misdeeds may require more intervention than described (for example, you wouldn’t let your toddler go away on a sledding trip without a coat). But parents should never miss a chance to let a child learn a lesson from the “real world.” Natural Consequences often take patience because we sometimes have to sit back and wait for the lesson to be learned. When the consequence comes, it is hard to let the consequence do the talking, instead of saying, “I told you so!” A simple empathetic statement like, “I’m sorry you got cold” or “I’m sorry you left your book in the rain” will suffice.
There are some obvious times when using Natural Consequences isn’t very bright, like when a child runs in front of a car or wants to drink cleaning supplies. There are also times when there really isn’t a Natural Consequence that applies. That’s where Logical Consequences come into play.
Logical Consequences: Consequences that are connected to the misbehavior and make sense.
1) Your daughter leaves her bike out in the driveway repeatedly = Lock up her bike for a predetermined length of time.
2) Your sons make a huge mess in their room = Suspend TV until the room is clean
3) Your teenage daughter came home two hours late = She doesn’t get the car for the next two weeks
Again, these are just ideas to help you think about the Logical connections you can make for misbehavior. For behaviors you see all the time, teach your child ahead of time what they can expect if they choose to misbehave. Then, when the bike is left out again, you don’t have to yell at your child how ungrateful they are for misusing such an expensive gift or ask them senseless questions like, “How many times have I told you not to leave your bike in the driveway?!?” Let the consequence do the teaching. The bike gets locked up. When the child complains or breaks down, you can just smile sympathetically, pat them on the head, and say, “I’m sorry you chose to leave your bike out.” Episode over.
Try It Today: In your notebook, write down some ideas of consequences for common misbehavior you know you’ll see. If you find yourself starting to yell at your kids, put yourself in time-out for a minute or two and think of a Natural or Logical Consequence that would teach the lesson more effectively…and save your voice!
Leave a comment about the Natural or Logical Consequences that work best at your house!