Monday, April 9, 2012

Natural Consequences

No Hovering Helicopters!

What is the best way to learn? Experience. What do you want your children to learn? To be responsible, to take care of themselves, to be kind & considerate, etc. We have so much to teach our children and one of our best & easiest tools is the natural consequence.

"Wear a hat & gloves", "don't forget your lunch", "take your instrument"; it get's really tiring to constantly remind and chase after your children to rescue them from their forgetfulness. You will be far more tired and aggravated if you find yourself still doing this with your teens. It is habit forming for both parent and child, so it's best to nip it in the bud and let them learn for themselves what will happen.

Have a family talk about about the value of being responsible. When we take care of our own things, our own needs and other responsibilities, we are actually being considerate of others. "Mom doesn't have to worry if you wear your hat & gloves every time" or "Mom or Dad don't have time to bring your instrument/homework to school if you forget." A good time to have this talk is after the first indecent of forgetfulness. It's okay to rescue once or twice when they are young, but then make it very clear that you will no longer do it because they have to learn to be responsible for themselves.

I guarantee they wont starve from forgetting their lunch (lunch rooms usually have a supply of PBJ & bread), they wont fail school from forgetting their homework, and they wont catch pneumonia from not wearing hat & gloves. However if they learn to take responsibility early on in these small ways, they are more likely to make a habit of being responsible for themselves.

If you have an especially forgetful child (it can be a personality trait), you can help them remember what they have to do with a checklist. Checklists are also great for things like chores, routines or schedules you want to establish. When you look at the checklist and you see that something has not been done, give only one reminder and your expectation for when it has to be done. They should also know that there will be a consequence if something you've asked them to do doesn't get done.

For example, if they take too long getting ready for bed then there will be no bedtime story. If they fail to do their chores, maybe they will have to miss their favorite show to get them done. These are ways we can help our kids understand that there is a natural negative result when we don't do what we're supposed to do. It can be helpful for parents to think about their expectations ahead of time and figure out what type of consequence would be most natural or logical in each situation, keeping in mind the child's age and capabilities. When children are held accountable at a young age they become much better prepared for real life & work, and will be much less likely to make excuses or feel sorry for themselves in later life.

Next weeks topic is "Choosing Your Battles", so please come back. Feel free to leave your comments below.

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