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Teaching children about consequences

Answers from YouthZoneDebbie VanHoorelbeke

I have worked with parents for many years in parenting classes. One of the biggest challenges for parents is giving children consequences versus punishment. Consequences give children the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. The goal of giving a consequence to a child is so they learn to internalize whose problem it is.We do not want our children to learn to blame the adults in their lives for their mistakes. “That policeman just doesn’t like me,” or “That teacher has it out for me,” “Mom and Dad always favor my younger brother over me,” are common excuses. What happens when the voice is no longer mine, who does the child then listen to? This is why we want our children to learn early on while the price tag is still small enough that if they make mistakes it is OK, they still will be responsible for clearing up the problem. Punishment teaches our children to be angry at or resent adults. As a parent, ask yourself if you are modeling the behaviors you want your child to take on, such as speeding and hoping you don’t get caught, blaming the officer if you do get caught, or accepting the consequences.I recall a powerful single mother who attended a parenting class years ago. She had two sons, one preteen and one teen. The teen, Sam (not his real name), tried desperately to stay two steps ahead of mom at all times, but fortunately for him, she was usually ahead of him.Sam was doing poorly in school, both with attendance and his low grades. One of the family rules was that there would be no TV until his grades and attendance improved. This became a problem however, because the TV was located in the living room, and as a result, everyone suffered the “consequence” of no TV.The mom decided that she would lock the TV up in her bedroom closet for a period of time and this would eliminate her playing “TV Police” with Sam. This actually turned into a positive situation, because the family ended up spending their evenings talking to each other, eating meals at the table instead of in front of the TV, and even playing board games together. Sam started going to bed earlier at night, his grades and attendance improved and getting the TV back became less important.Jim Faye and Foster Cline, from Love and Logic Institute, teach that when we establish logical consequences we consider the following:- Consequences should be closely related to the positive or negative behavior- Consequences should be stated in terms of privilege and responsibility- Consequences should be established in an environment of unqualified love and mutual respectWhen something occurs that wasn’t allowed for, handle it as closely to a natural consequence as possible, avoiding overkill and punitive responses. Then if it is likely to be a problem in the future agree on how future occurrences will be handled.Debbie VanHoorelbeke is a YouthZone counselor and case manager.


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