June 13, 2013Q. My wife and I disagree on consequences to discipline our children. What types of consequences are there and how can they be more effective?
A. Allowing children to experience the consequences of their behavior is the most used discipline method. Children learn every act has a consequence, and they learn to be accountable and responsible for their behavior. Children must understand they have choices and must accept the consequences of their choices.
Natural consequences allow children to learn from the natural order of the world. For instance, if the child refuses to eat, he will get hungry, or if the child does not do his homework assignment, she will get a lower grade. The parent allows unpleasant, but natural, consequences to happen when the child does not act in a desirable way.
Natural consequences cannot be used in all situations. If parents interfere with a natural consequence it will not be effective. Also, a natural consequence you see as unpleasant may not matter to your child.
Natural consequences only work if they are undesirable to your child and you do not interfere. Carefully choose the conditions when you allow natural consequences to occur and they can be very effective. Saving or protecting your child from natural consequences (for example, bringing homework to school when forgotten) does not help your child learn to be responsible.
Logical consequences are options you suggest to your child. They are different from natural consequences because you present them, instead of nature or society. You should choose consequences directly related to the unacceptable behavior. For example, if your child leaves a mess, have her clean two rooms, don’t ground her for a week; or, if the child will not change out of his good clothes into play clothes, he will have to stay in the house and find something to do inside. Other examples include: if your toys are not picked up by bedtime, they will be put in this box at the back of the basement; or, you may turn down the volume on the radio (or use headphones), or listen to the radio in your room.
Try to make the consequence “fit the crime.” Whatever you use as a consequence should teach your child the true outcome of his behavior. Not allowing your child to watch TV because he has taken something is a consequence that does not “fit the crime.” If your child apologizes for his behavior and has to return what he has taken, he will have a better understanding of the impact of his behavior on others.
The goal of consequences is to teach your child behaviors that will lead to positive consequences (i.e., more of the things that your children like).
Kasper is a licensed social worker in Macomb County. He provides counseling to children, adolescents, adults and families and specializes in behavior analysis and interventions; parent coaching, mentoring and support and “SuperNanny Services.” He is also a military family life consultant/child and youth behavior, a contractual therapist for Catholic Services of Macomb and Training Coordinator for Macomb County Community Mental Health. His website is familyactionplan.com.
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