Consequences

Katherine - posted on 09/11/2010 ( 20 moms have responded )

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Just found this blog and I love her way of thinking. Although it seems like common sense, we tend to forget these little but crucial things.



In Part 1, I talked about the differences between natural consequences, logical consequences, and punishments. In positive discipline, natural consequences are appropriate and effective in helping children learn. They are the preferred method of discipline (yes, it’s still considered discipline even if we don’t DO anything) for giving children valuable learning experiences.



Logical consequences are a popular discipline tool, but they are risky. As stated in Part 1, a logical consequence is one “that ‘fits’ with the circumstances”. However, this leaves a lot of room for interpretation. When parents experience difficult behavior from children and their emotions are running strong, it becomes very easy to turn what is intended as a logical consequence into a punishment.



So what makes a consequence truly logical? As a general rule of thumb, if you have to think too hard about what to do to a child so that he learns a lesson, the logical consequence is most likely a punishment in disguise. To ensure that logical consequences don’t become punitive:



First try to figure out what the natural consequence is. We can do this by taking ourselves out of the situation. “What would happen if I stepped out of this and let my child handle this problem?” Would there be a natural challenge she would have to deal with on her own? That might be a valuable learning experience for her.



Sometimes, though, a problem requires a parent’s involvement, in which case we can focus on solutions. Think of difficult behavior not as a lesson to be learned, but a problem to be solved. Consider, “What do we need to do to solve this problem?” rather than, “What do I need to do so that my child learns a lesson?”



When coming up with possible solutions to a problem, make sure that they follow the 4 Rs:



Related—the consequence must be related to the behavior. A child tries out his new markers…directly on the kitchen floor. A related consequence is that he must wash the marker off the floor. An unrelated consequence would be if he were required to clean up the whole toy room.

Respectful—the consequence must be kindly enforced; no blame, shame, or pain. Respectful: “Here’s a wet rag so that you can wipe the marker off the floor.” Disrespectful: “Look what you did! I can’t believe you colored marker all over the floor! You better clean this mess up NOW.”

Reasonable—the consequence is in proportion to the problem. Reasonable: The child needs to wash the marker off the floor. Unreasonable: The child needs to wash the entire kitchen floor.

Revealed in advance—allow the child to know what will happen if a certain behavior occurs. “Please keep the marker on the paper. You’ll have to clean up any marker that gets on the floor.”

Something else that helps keep a consequence from becoming punitive is to give a child choice in the matter, and to ask for their input in solving a problem. The choices a child is offered should always follow the 4 Rs above.



You can either get a spray bottle and a rag, or use a wet sponge. Which would you like to use to clean this? Do you have another idea for how you could clean this up? Would you like me to help by getting a wet towel for you?



When using positive discipline, we try for natural consequences first, and approach the use of logical consequences conscientiously. We can ensure that these “consequences” are truly relevant and respectful and not an arbitrary punishment in disguise by instead approaching them as “solutions”. Our relationships with our children will benefit from the kindness and firmness of this positive discipline style, as well as from the cooperation and respect we demonstrate to our kids.

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Jaime - posted on 09/15/2010

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I was just reading through some of the comments and I think sometimes people do get confused about what constitutes a natural consequence.

"A natural consequence for not sharing would be that they would not be able to play with that toy anymore. A consequence for hitting would be a time out."

These examples are not natural consequences. Natural consequences don't involve pre-meditated actions. If my son climbs up on the table and falls off and hurts himself...that is a natural consequence. If a child doesn't tie up their shoe laces and trips, that is a natural consequence. If a child doesn't wear their hat and mitts out to play and feels cold, that is a natural consequence. Not wearing sunscreen and getting a sunburn--natural consequence. Not brushing one's teeth properly and getting a cavity--natural consequence.

I agree with natural consequences more so than pre-meditated consequences (essentially the disciplinary back-up plan for parents) because if there's one thing my son has already taught me, it's that no matter how many times I tell him "not for you" or "no" or "don't" or "gently"...he is not going to listen if he's not ready to. If he is tugging on Nana's dog's fur and she snaps at him and scares him, that is the natural consequence of his action. If he continuously climbs up on my desk and tries to reach for my keyboard and slips off the chair, that is the natural consequence. I am finding with Gray, that the more natural consequences he's exposed to, the more he is learning about appropriate and inappropriate behaviour. Of course not all natural consequences are logical or conducive to the health and safety of a child. If my son runs onto the road, the natural consequence would be getting hit by a car and I most certainly would never allow that lesson to be learned, thus I have a harness that he wears so that he's hands-free but still within safe limits of me.

I am on the fence about my parenting style because I value much of the AP style, but I have also used other methods such as CIO and time-out for the sake of calming down from a tantrum. I used to think time-outs were a good discipline tool, but now I reserve them for situations where a child is unable to control their actions and needs some time and space to calm down and come back to a rational mind-set. I don't however, believe that time-outs are effective much of the time.

[deleted account]

Dawna, if you haven't already, you should read Barbara Coloroso's "Kids are worth it!"....raising resilient, responsible and compassionate kids. I'm just reading the chapter that talks about/deals with all the different forms of consequences. Obviously natural consequences should be our first choice but there's nothing wrong with reasonable consequences because like you said, we can't always rely on or there isn't always an acceptable natural consequence.

[deleted account]

I'm all about natural consequences and I believe that's why Roxanne does so well - in her two years I've very rarely intervened. Unless her actions could/would potentially become dangerous, I've left her alone to explore and with that has come MANY natural consequences, some not so appealing, but how else can someone truly learn WHY not to do something?

Jaime - posted on 09/16/2010

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I'm the same Riana...I do have safety locks on cupboards with chemicals and safety plugs in the sockets...but when it comes to the stairs or furniture or anything not directly posing a threat to Gray's life, I let him figure it out. He has had some pretty intense falls that have no effect on him whatsoever, and then the slightest bump on the head can send him into a fit of cries...so I'm always there to make sure he has a loving, comforting hand to help ease that pain.



I just think natural consequences make sense. I will drive myself nutty if everything he does triggers my temper because he touches something or makes a mess when I have just cleaned to my own personal specifications. He is learning that he has to help me clean up the mess. I can't force him to help, but I sing the clean up song and I hand him things off the floor and ask him to "put it in the bin please" and he does. And then he will begin to pick things up off the floor and help me. I'm reading Barbara Colorosso's book "kids are worth it, and I'm gaining a ton of perspective on the idea that my actions, if they keep my child's and my own dignity in tact, are going to bring about a much happier and healthier family situation than if I just react to every situation with negativity or the threat of my own consequences.

Riana - posted on 09/13/2010

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Great link Katherine!

I don't agree that time out is a logical consequense for hitting. For me a logical consequence is if you don't play nicely no one will want to be your friend so you will have to play alone, same thing with not wanting to share a toy. It is relared, it is respectful, it is reasonable and can easily be revealed in advance?

We are social creatures and kids hate nothing more than playing on their own.

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She talks about RSVP-Four clues to REASONABLE consequences.

R-is it reasonable?
S-is it simple?
V-is it valuable as a learning tool?
P-is it practical?

Jaime - posted on 09/18/2010

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I don't think time-outs are the enemy of discipline. I am not a huge fan of restraining a child against their will, or sending them into seclusion for a period of time, but I do think that time-outs are necessary in life for everyone. I have plenty of adult time-outs, and I expect my son to learn when he needs to have a time-out. And I do mean that in the literal sense. Time-out is exactly that...time out of the chaos and stress of a situation. I don't think that time-outs are effective as punishment because children shouldn't be made to dislike the, they should learn to understand when it's appropriate to sit independently for a short time, to either reflect or to calm themselves so that they have a rational mind-set and can understand their attitude in relation to the situation.

I value natural consequences because I feel that they are the most effective discipline tool...but I also think that time-outs can serve as somewhat of a natural, positive consequence when someone is feeling overwhelmed and needs that moment of solitude to put things into perspective.

Dawna - posted on 09/18/2010

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I agree that natural consequences are a great learning tool. Most of the time, we let our daughter explore and play and learn from her mistakes while only offering support and comfort when needed. We didn't put a gate on our very high staircase, and she learned very young how to properly climb up and down (with our help in teaching and supervising), and we didn't have to worry she would step off the edge and fall to her doom if we visited a house with ungated stairs. We also let her help us cook, including stirring things on the stove, from a very young age (she's been doing so for almost 2 years, and she only just turned 3), and apart from a couple very minor burns, nothing bad happened. She did however, learn that we said not to touch the stove not because it was a magical thing only grownups get to do, but because doing so hurts. I have been struggling with discipline and consequences for behavior now that she is old enough to misbehave in intangible, social ways. Some things don't really have natural consequences that can be effected by us as parents. Or at least, I haven't figured them out yet. So, I'm trying to figure out how to arm myself with tactics that are positive, but no necessarily a natural consequence. I hate time-outs, but I would like to find a way to teach her to calm herself, and so far, I've been failing on that part. Largely due to mommy's misbehavior while under huge financial stresses. Luckily, things may be looking up for us financially, so I may be able to address both our social problems at once. Or, if nothing else, I've been trying to put myself in time out instead of her.

Riana - posted on 09/16/2010

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... although I must also admit that each time they do fall I make sure that I'm there to offer an hand to help them up again :-)

Riana - posted on 09/15/2010

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I agree with a lot you said Jamie, although I'm a positive parrent I very much believe in exposing my kids to life and just acting as and intermediator. I do not believe in shielding my kids, if there is no serious danger involved let them make their own choices even if it is wrong :-)

[deleted account]

I agree, logical - yes. But only to seperate the child from a volatile situation and allow them time to calm down....it can't be the sole punishment or means of discipline.....not lesson is taught from a 'time-out', other than to calm down and take a break. Discipline needs to commence after everyone's emotions are in check. Just my opinion though...

Riana - posted on 09/13/2010

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Time outs are not a natural consequence, no one gets naturally send to time out LOL while social rejection definately is, thats why I think having to play on your own has a bigger impact. I don't even think it should be in a different room. It has more impact if they can stay in the same room but do not get to interact with the other kids for a few minutes. Going to a different room is likely to make the child angry and resentful while playing seperately next to other children makes them long for social acceptance - lesson taught.

However I do agree that there are times when time out can be a logical consequence. If I child looses control of his emotion or is having a full blown tantrum they need a break from the enviroment - it's not natural but it is logical.

[deleted account]

I agree with Riana - I'm not a huge fan of time-outs and I don't agree that it's a natural consequence.

Katherine - posted on 09/12/2010

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Brandy: I was thinking about the hitting and time out. Actually AP is about ignoring the negative and rewarding the positive. So you would ignore the hitting, but remove your child from the situation, and then praise him when he's playing nicely.
If they're little I would gently take their hands and say nicely and if the kept hitting, take their hand again and say nicely. That's my opinion.

Brandy - posted on 09/12/2010

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Thank you. I was wondering about that because I thought AP doesn't use time outs at all but sometimes they are necessary.

Katherine - posted on 09/12/2010

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A natural consequence for not sharing would be that they would not be able to play with that toy anymore. A consequence for hitting would be a time out.

Brandy - posted on 09/11/2010

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Good reference. Thanks. I like that there are examples. But what would be a natural consequence for something that actually is bad like hitting a little brother or not sharing toys with friends?

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