Normal and Logical Consequences
Successful parents have learned to be both firm and kind at the same time. They set boundaries and work with their children to help them understand that they will follow through with appropriate action if inappropriate behavior continues. Don't think when I say firmness that I really mean strictness. Strictness deals with the child; firmness is more an extension of our resolve toward our decisions.
AN EXAMPLE OF KIND, BUT FIRM CONSEQUENCES
"Yes, you may play in the sprinkler, but you must dry off before coming in doors. If you do not dry off and you get water on the floor, you will not be allowed to play with the water for the rest of the day."
There is no better place for your child to learn values, standards, and social skills than in the home. There is no better teaching method than letting natural consequences take place. If you as an adult don't pay the phone bill, they cut off your service. If your child doesn't turn in his report, he receives a low grade. If there are no natural consequences, parents sometimes have to establish a logical one. Make sure that your children have a clear understanding of their actions and the consequences. We want them to comprehend that for every action there is a reaction, either pleasant or unpleasant. There should be no question that when your ruin your sister's sweater, you pay for a new one and, if the laundry is not done by the agreed-upon time, that they may not go with their friends.
CONSEQUENCE MUST FIT THE MISBEHAVIOR
Consequences must fit the misbehavior in order for it to be a teaching tool. It is frequently more effective to ask children what they think is a fair consequence rather than arbitrarily handing out a life sentence. It gives them a chance to examine the problem and come up with other solutions. It also helps them to assume personal responsibility for their choices and actions.
You will be amazed at the wise answers your children will give you when you ask them, "What do you think is fair?" or even, "This is a real problem. What should we do about it?" The easier road is to yell at them, ground them, or punish them, but that road doesn't teach them much or allow them to solve their own problems. It only makes the parent resentful and the child angry. The higher road takes a few more minutes, a calm voice, and a reasonable manner, but it leaves the child with his/her pride intact and tools to recognize how actions impact other people and things.
DON'T ACCEPT "I FORGOT"
Establish a rule: three reminders to do a job and you lose a privilege. Make sure that you all agree on the consequences beforehand, and then stick to them. Do not accept "I forgot". If children "forget", or just don't do their chores, it is much more effective for them to receive a visual reminder than verbal attack on their integrity by fuming parents. If your son is supposed to take out the garbage or clean the cat box and doesn't, simply place it on his bed or pillow where he can't miss seeing it. Don't get roped into a verbal confrontation. When he comes to you complaining because his room stinks, simply smile and say, "Oh that must be why the garbage needs to be taken out daily. It is your responsibility to take care of it." Then, just walk away.
Assign a "police sergeant" to pick up every night at 8:00 p.m. Any item left lying about can be held for a fine, payable to the sergeant. If you are not giving allowances, the same idea can be accomplished by giving each child a number of tokens or buttons each day or at the family council. The buttons can be used to "buy" treats and treasures from a special box. When children pay fines, it is the logical consequences for not picking up their toys and belongings.
NATURAL AND LOGICAL CONSEQUENCES ARE THE BEST TEACHERS
Congratulations for wanting to do better for your family. Remember you don't have to be a perfect parent but you need to be a present parent. They need your presence and attention much more than presents from Toys-R-Us or Wall Mart. Ninety percent of success is just showing up every day and caring.
One hundred years from now, it will not matter what kind of car you drove, what you did for a living, how many hours you stayed at the office to finish a report, how clean your house was or how many "things" you had acquired. What will matter is that because you took the time and effort to be important in the life of your child, you touched eternity and changed the world.
Judy H. Wright, Parent Educator
This article has been written by Judy H. Wright, a parent educator and PBS consultant. You will find a full listing of books, tele-classes, and workshops listed at www.ArtichokePress.com. You have permission to use the article providing full credit is given to author. She may be contacted at 406-549-9813 or JudyWright@ArtichokePress.com
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