Fred Becker of Becker Institute

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Parenting With Consequences Not With Punishment

Parenting in the modern age can be a particularly daunting task. We are constantly being told that smacking a child is not appropriate and that punishment in general is not effective parenting. However, punishment and consequences are not necessarily the same and is definitely a positive way of disciplining your children. A proper form of discipline teaches the child to become a responsible adult with self-discipline and consideration for other people.

Consequences, when used correctly, encourage good behaviour and help to keep the lines of communication open between parent and child. However, it is not enough to use negative consequences solely in teaching children to behave appropriately as this only teaches them what not to do rather than teaching them more appropriate behaviours. It is also necessary to use positive consequences for good behaviour as well as being open and honest with your children as to what you expect of them.

When you focus on the good behaviours and praise the children for these behaviours, the bad behaviours generally decrease and negative consequences are needed less often. Remember that consequences are only there to apply boundaries and reinforce rules when verbal reminders haven't worked.

It is important to think carefully about the type of negative consequences used for bad behaviour as overuse or inconsistency can render them ineffective.

There are three types of consequences and these will each be explained in the following paragraphs. The three types are natural consequences, logical consequences, and loss of privileges. Each of these can be used as required, depending on the behaviours displayed by the child.

Natural consequences can teach your child lessons without your intervention. However, these can be either good or bad. An appropriate natural consequence may be where a child refuses to eat a meal. The child will then feel hungry and will learn quickly that refusing to eat is not appropriate and leads to personal discomfort.

In a bad sense however, the consequence of behaviour may lead to injury in which case it is important for the parent to intervene in order to protect the child. Also, natural consequences can actually reward bad behaviour. For instance, a bully is rewarded when the victim gives in to demands.

A logical consequence is one that is in relation to the behaviour displayed. An example of this would be where the child throws food or drink on the wall or floor in temper. When the behaviour has subsided, the child would then be expected to clean up the mess. This form of consequence gets the child to think about what they have done and the consequence of their actions. These consequences are fairer as they are relevant to the particular behaviour.

Loss of privilege may be used as a negative consequence for some behaviours such as swearing and aggressive behaviour and may range from losing the privilege of watching a television program to not being taken on an outing.

The use of time-out is appropriate when the child is being particularly difficult or where both parent and child are feeling angry and need a short break to calm down in order to address the situation more appropriately.

Although negative consequences are an important tool for parenting, it is important to be aware that encouragement for good behaviour will lead to less need for these consequences. To bring about this situation, children need to understand exactly what is expected of them. Obviously, if the child then ignores rules and subsequent reminders, then negative consequences need to be applied. However, these need to be consistent and must apply to all children in the family regardless of age and gender. Otherwise, the child will see it as favouritism toward other children and this may lead to a diminished sense of self worth.

Also, keep the consequence short in order to give the child a chance to try again. Don’t take the toy away for hours…take it away for fifteen minutes or so. The consequence does not have to be long or harsh for it to work.

It is also important to implement the consequence calmly and without getting personal. Refer to the bad behaviour not to the bad child. Remaining neutral and in control lets the child learn from the situation rather than worrying about how angry the parent is with them.

All children display negative behaviours at times. How you deal with these behaviours as a parent can make all the difference in maintaining that close bond with the children. Don’t confuse negative consequences with punishment and use the negative consequences in a constructive manner. Happy Parenting!!!

by Anne Wolski -

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