Choices and Consequences – the key for children

As our children grow up, they are faced with decisions, and choices that they have to make and ultimately we need to teach our children to decide how to make those decisions and how to live with the consequences of their choices.

tantrums color illustration irene LR for web

As adults we make blanket statements in the heat of the moment such as “eat your dinner or I will send it to someone who’ll appreciate it” or “if you don’t leave your sister alone I’m cancelling your birthday”.

But, do we follow through with the proposed consequence? Not always. These moments are a chance to help teach your child about the consequences of their actions and choices. It means as an adult you need to think about the choices you provide them with and know that you can actually follow through with what you’ve proposed.

Nancy Darling from Psychology Today states “Laying out clear standards of behaviours is good parenting. Letting kids face the consequences of their actions and punishing them when they misbehave is a necessary part of teaching. Empty threats teach kids to misbehave.”

How many times have you issued a threat, and then not followed through to the consequence? Every time you don’t implement the consequence, you make it harder to influence your child’s behaviour, and you make it harder for them to understand what their decision will mean in the real world. A child who understands that every action has a consequence, will become an adult who makes more considered decisions and thinks before they act.

As parents it’s important to look at these moments as a learning experience, instead of getting exasperated think of it as offering your child a choice between one action and a consequence and another.

We often offer consequences that are dangerous, impossible and heart breaking, and we realize that every situation is going to be different, so you’ll know what will work with your child. sometimes it may be the option to cancel an activity, or to lose a treat that they have already earned, but here are a few things to think about when you’re trying to decide what to do:

1. Realistic consequences: Remember you are not going to leave them at the side of the road, tie them to a tree, nor will you parcel up their dinner and send it to a child in Africa, be real when you offer a choice.

2. Related consequences: The consequence needs to be related to what they have done such as doing something nice for a sibling they have been fighting with or paying their pocket money towards something that needs to be replaced.

3. Timely consequences: Children won’t associate a consequence that doesn’t happen directly following the action they undertook. Cancelling a party next week means nothing next to a choice they made today.

4. Avoiding danger: Telling your children you are going to leave them at the side of the road if they don’t stop their bickering is never going to happen. Make sure the options you offer them are safe and controllable.

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