Using “Consequences” as a Form of Discipline
Making children know the consequences of their decisions is a “hassle-free” way to discipline them. Children learn from experiences, just like adults. We call it learning the “hard way”. The child learns that each action has consequences for which she or he is responsible.
Parents must inform the child what are the consequences of breaking the rule. If the child does not want to eat, he has the option of eating in time, or he can choose not to eat. He or she must understand that s/he has an option and must accept the consequences of that choice. The child also needs to know the cause of the consequences; for example, it is extra work to keep the food warm.
It is also important that the parents be willing to accept the child’s decision.
Natural consequences allow children to learn from the natural order of the world. For example, if a child does not eat, he will starve. If he does not do his homework, he or she will get a low grade.
Logical consequences are arranged by parents. The result must logically follow the child’s behavior. For example, the lack of clean clothes to wear is a logical consequence of not putting dirty clothes in washing.
Consequences Teach Responsibility
Christine left her dirty clothes on the floor and never put her in the laundry. The mother threatens her of the consequences. Christine continues to leave her dirty clothes on the floor.
The mother decides to use logical consequences. She informs Christine, with a strong and friendly voice, that in the future the clothes in the laundry would be washed only five days later, Christine did not have clean clothes. Christine’s mother gives her the responsibility to put her clothes in the right place to be washed. If the mother had returned and washed Christine’s clothes when she did not put her in the bag, she was deprived from clean clothes. If parents protect children from the consequences of their behavior, they will not change their behavior.
Using consequences can help the child develop a sense of accountability. This leads to warmer relationships between parents and children.
Natural Consequences cannot be used in all cases
Parents may not use natural consequences if the child could be affected or hurt by not stopping him or her from doing an action. If a toddler passes the street without looking, it is not possible to wait until a car hits him or her – a natural result – to teach him or her not to walk in the middle of the road. Instead, the child should be taken home and told: “ Because you were going to cross the street without looking, you cannot go out.” Then, the parents must explain to the child the result of his behavior had they not stopped him or her.
Other examples of appropriate consequences:
- Change the Tone of the Voice: Your child is very sensitive to tone of your voice. To change his behavior with your voice, speak in a different and deeper way. The word “no” is usually simple enough to be redirected.
- Redirect your Child to a Different Activity: This means helping your child focus on something else.
- “time out”: You can put your child in a place alone for a few minutes to think. It does not take long to be effective. The trick is to stop engaging with your child while he is in “time out”. You have to ignore your child for it to work! Aim for the number of minutes equal to his or her age. If she or he is three years old then the time out should not be for no more than three minutes.