Differentiating between consequence and punishment
Many of us when we think of consequences we think of punishments. Which it should not be the case as both are quite different.
Many might think that a consequence we are giving is not a punishment but simply what a child deserves. Yet there is a fine line between an actual consequence and a punishment.
Let us understand it better through this scenario: your child, an 8 year old broke a vase at home. Your instant reaction is anger and upset and we honestly just wish them to pay for causing this upset and tell them that for that day they cannot watch screen time because they broke the vase. THAT IS NOT A CONSEQUENCE…it is a punishment which ultimately means, you hurt me and I am going to hurt you back as much as possible. There is no learning outcome except that if one hurts me than I should hurt them back (especially if they are younger than me).
Now let us look at the same scenario but instead of no screen time, we wait till we are calm enough and then let them know how upset we are that they broke the vase. As a consequence, they need to pay for the vase to be replaced (or if possible they are to help fix it). You discuss together how this is going to be achieved (by saving pocket money or not giving pocket money for x amount of weeks or by doing small extra works around the house or to neighbours etc). This would be a logical consequence which is relate-able to what happened, respectful to the child, reasonable and helpful. the learning outcomes would be to be respectful, responsible, kind and helpful.
There are also what we call natural consequences. Let us look at this new scenario: Your teen would not wake up despite calling them several times and they miss the bus to school. Your reaction is to get angry and upset but despite the threats and anger you take them to school yourself so as not for them to be late. What are children learning here? They are learning that you do not mean your threats, that you will ALWAYS rescue them and so need not take responsibility for their actions.
Now we can instead let nature take its course. When they miss their bus, you let them know (not in angry tones) that they have to figure out how to get to school and speak with the head themselves to justify their lateness. You also let them know that once home you will hold a talk between you on how this issue is to be resolved (this could involve them using an alarm clock to wake alone, sleeping earlier to wake on time, insisting you will not rescue them when this happens again). Through this approach, we are teaching responsibility, self reliance, kindness and boundaries.
Therefore, before issuing your verdict on something that happens at home stop a moment and think if what you are doing is just inflicting damage or if we are teaching through natural or logical consequences.
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