As adults, we know that consequences are present in almost every aspect of our lives. However, as parents faced with how to positively discipline our childen, handing out consequences can be especially difficult. There are three strategies for providing consequences for your children’s actions. As with anything, there are pros and cons to each strategy. Our hope is that by understanding the differences between these types of consequences, you will learn how to impact your children’s behavior in a positive way.
Natural consequences occur without any intervention or discipline from a parent. A great example of this is if your children refuse to wear gloves or a hat during winter, they will get cold when they go outside. They will then quickly learn naturally that wearing gloves and a hat keeps them warm.
The benefit of this type of consequence is that it doesn’t require discipline from you and your children still learn what you are trying to teach them. It also helps your children realize that their parents’ advice is in their best interests.
The pitfall for this type of consequence is that children will learn the consequences of their actions the hard way and may experience discomfort for a bit because of it.
Imposed consequences involve parent intervention in the situation at hand. An example of this is if your child is in the kitchen while you are cooking, and he or she gets too close to the stove or tries to touch it. It is potentially a very dangerous situation that would not benefit from the learning of natural consequences. As a parent, you have to step in and stop your child’s actions before an injury can occur. The consequence you then might impose on this situation would be making your child sit quietly at the kitchen table rather than having him or her help you make dinner.
Obviously, the benefit of using imposed consequences is that you are preventing your children from seriously injuring themselves. You are also reinforcing your role as a parent, and establishing that you are responsible for your children’s well-being and safety, so they should take your words seriously. In situations like this, it is also important to remember to stay calm and use what happened as a teachable moment.
Unrelated-imposed consequences also include parent intervention. The difference between this type of consequence and an imposed consequence is that the consequence is not directly related to your child’s behavior. For example, if your child is getting physical with his or her sibling, you will need to intervene on the situation. Sitting down with your children and finding a consequence of their inappropriate behavior might include taking away their television or electronics privileges. The inappropriate behaviors are not related to television or electronics, but they can be the consequence for hitting or pushing.
The benefits of his type of discipline are that the consequences will hopefully persuade the children from repeating the inappropriate behavior. And, they can be given in a conversational problem-solving manner, so it is often easier to stay calm. That being said, balancing the fine line of teaching and getting a point across to a child can be the most difficult task for a parent. No parent enjoys setting consequences, which is why this method can be difficult for both the child and parent.
Finally, it’s important to remember that each child responds to consequences differently.
However, knowing the different types of consequences will hopefully make it easier for you to choose the best method for each situation.