Monday, March 26, 2012

Parents Tool Kit

Logical Consequences

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One of the biggest problems parents often have with discipline is how to follow through with a consequence for misbehavior. Sometimes this is because we tend to overreact in the midst of a crisis and then feel bad later. Sometimes it's because we just can't think of anything other than "time out" or "no TV when we get home" and that doesn't seem to have the impact we desire. It can be difficult in that moment when kids are pushing your buttons, to stop and think logically.

One way to look at logical consequences is that the "punishment" or consequence should fit the misbehavior. This works sometimes, but it is not applicable to all situations. For example if Johnny hits Susie, it might seem logical for Susie to be allowed to hit Johnny back, but that's not a very good discipline method because neither child is learning proper behavior that way. In this case it would be better for Johnny to say he is sorry, and to do something to make Susie feel better. Children need to learn how to behave properly more than they need to be punished.

It's better to think about logical consequences as a teaching tool rather than a "punishment". For example, if
your child accidently spills milk at the table, you can calmly teach him how to clean it up. If your child purposely throws his milk cup on the floor because he's angry, you would have him clean it up and then sit in "time out" (or the other way around if necessary). Sometimes it takes a combination of discipline tools to teach the lesson.

Part of implementing logical consequences means that we have to be thinking logically at the time. It's hard to think logically when you're tired, frustrated, irritated, or stressed out, so it's good to be prepared for those times because we all have them. You could tell your kids, "look, I've had a really bad day so don't ________ or you may get a really bad consequence." Better yet, you can tell them specifically how you want them to behave, "I need you to be quiet and play nicely for an hour so I can relax because I've had a bad day." In this case you could also offer a small reward for their cooperation, and a possible consequence
if they misbehave.

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Logical consequences become even more important as kids get older and we are trying to reinforce appropriate behavior. For example: missing curfew results in being grounded, irresponsible driving results in the loss of the use of the car, if you break something you have to repair or pay for the damage, and so forth. Kids need to understand that the rules exist for their own protection, for the well being of others, and for their own education about being a responsible person. When we can use a logical consequence our kids will have a better chance of learning appropriate behavior and taking responsibility for their actions.

Next week I'll talk about other types of consequences that may not be logical but may easier to implement. Please feel free to leave your comments or share your experiences!

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