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Understanding Consequences

Understanding Consequences

Have you ever done an internet search for information on discipline? There’s so much out there it’s astounding what pops up.  Not to mention there is conflicting information waiting around nearly every corner, so it can feel overwhelming and virtually impossible to make sense of it all.  With this in mind, lets dive right into discipline and parenting effectively and hopefully find a little clarity!

Google defines discipline as the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior using punishment to correct disobedience. At the opposite end of the arena founder of Positive Discipline, Jane Nelson, explains that Positive Discipline is a way of teaching and guiding children by letting them know what behavior is acceptable in a way that is firm, yet kind. 

It’s helpful to grow our understanding of the differences between traditional discipline as we know and talk about it and positive discipline. 

How we discipline our kids has long term effects, and our reliance on punishment to manage our parenting can lead to anxiety and more aggression in children. Often there are three terms we commonly hear associated with discipline however when it comes to positive discipline, you’ll notice punishment is not connected to this approach to parenting. Instead, positive discipline focuses on coaching or teaching appropriate behavior within the context of a safe relationship. It also places emphasis on these core components:

Natural Consequences – Consequences that occur naturally in a cause-effect relationship. For example, if your child doesn’t want to eat anything that’s on the menu for dinner at your house, he’ll miss out on eating a meal. If your child insists on taking their favorite toy to the park and that toy gets lost, she’ll no longer have her favorite toy to play with. We do not add lectures or exacerbate the situation by saying phrases like, “I told you so” (Sound familiar? I’m sure we’ve all done that a time or two). We also must not get into the habit of rescuing children from experiencing such consequences as they are often a powerful learning opportunity. The only time these consequences are not okay is if they could cause physical harm (i.e. running into the street might cause you to be hit by a car) or they are so far in the future your child likely won’t connect the two events (i.e. if you keep grabbing toys from friends they won’t want to play with you.) Truthfully, so much learning happens with natural consequences.

Logical Consequences – Consequences created and imposed by you that are associated with a poor choice or the child’s undesired behavior. For example, “Because you don’t respect the limits of turning off the TV when your TV time is done, you will not be allowed to watch TV for the next two days,” or “If you continue to ignore my instructions to clean up your toys, the next time I have to do this, I'll be keeping each toy I have to pick up for two days.” Logical consequences are designed to help your children better remember and understand what is expected in the future. Expect your kids to test limits several times, honestly this is a natural part of childhood. Remaining calm in your tone and body language and staying consistent are key elements to implementing logical consequences, so it’s crucial that you choose consequences that you are able to live with and follow through on consistently.  

Punishment – When we are aiming to focus on positive discipline punishment is actually not necessary. Most of the time punishment is imposed during moments of overwhelm, frustration or anger with your little one’s behavior. It’s why we always do our best not to discipline a child in anger. Punishment doesn’t follow a logical or natural progression, and it is often extreme in regards to the amount of time or specific punishment that we impose. Imposing a punishment can cause anger, resentment and frustration in kids, and when we use it repeatedly it can have long term implications with your relationship with your child. An example of punishment would be, “You never listen when I tell you to pick up your toys, you don’t get dessert or TV time for the next week!” Punishment typically is about control and involves fear, force, shame, pain, blame or a threat to get kids to comply.  Whether it’s spanking, yelling, taking away privileges, or giving time-outs research indicates punishment is typically the least effective form of discipline. It does little to reduce children’s problem behaviors, and it often leads to a power struggle between the parent and child.

Coaching or teaching appropriate behavior within the context of a safe and loving relationship is always an option and parenting with love and positive discipline is always the best option. 

If you’re right in the throes of parenting a toddler or preschooler I hope you have found this post helpful. If you’re struggling or at your wits end, don’t hesitate to reach out and we can see if I might be able to help. Always remember children are individuals and it’s important to find the parenting that works best for you and your family.

Heart of Connecting

My work is dedicated to supporting parents and early childhood educators in understanding and reducing challenging behavior in young children at home and in the preschool classroom.

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