Yesterday I began a multi-part blog post on choices. I explained how I started helping my sons make choices, and a bit about why. Today I want to talk about consequences. Please enjoy my thinking. Drop me a note and tell me what you think. Do you do things the same, different, do you agree or disagree. Remember I’m not perfect, just confident.
Let me start with the teacher side of me today. As I mentioned yesterday in my years of teaching primary children I’ve come across many children who struggle to make choices. They struggle with anything from simple this or that choices to bigger choices such as which friends to pick, or which learning strategy works for you.
There is a bigger pieces to choices that people often forget about…. choices have consequences. Typically when people hear the word consequences they think of punishment. This isn’t always the case. If I choose to eat ice cream, the consequences can be: I get to enjoy a bowl of ice cream and/or I feel guilty for eating ice cream. But either way it is a consequence. As stated in the attached definition consequence means:
So, when you teach children about choices you also have to teach them about consequences. Yesterday I gave the example of picking Cheerios for breakfast and then after you start eating decide you want oatmeal. As parents we have two choices… we can give in and allow the child to switch meals. Or, you can tell your child that he/she picked Cheerios and that he/she can choose to have oatmeal tomorrow. See you have choices too.
Now what are you teaching your child with both options? Well if you let them switch foods, then if you change your mind you get what you want, even if it means that you are now wasting food. Or you can teach them that the consequence of picking a food is that you eat it. By stating that they can choose have oatmeal the next day, you are reminding them that they can look forward to having this option another time.
The same thing can be seen for when I child makes what would be perceived as a negative choice. If your child hits their sibling, this is a choice that he/she made. The consequence of this choice is not the sibling is upset and crying and the parent will most likely get involved. Again your child has choices, he/she can figure out at way to make the situation better or worse. Most likely as a parent you will assert some form of punishment here, your child can choose to deal with the punishment as it is, or they can choose to escalate the situation. Again, both of these options have consequences, If I deal with the punishment as it is– I get it over with, don’t make my parent even more upset and get to move on with life. On the other hand, if I make it worse– it takes more time, my parent gets more upset and most likely the punishment gets worse.
The challenge with this example is how you are a parent choose to deal with the situation. If you give in and do not have your child complete the punishment you have chosen to give over control of the situation. This is the child that has the most difficulty at school, in my opinion. This child has learned that if I get upset and escalate the situation adults will give in and I get my way. I will tell you from all my years of teaching experience, this doesn’t work at school. A teacher has 16+ other students to teach and protect. Teachers can not give into children who try to manipulate adults. (now yes, there are children who have issues that cause them to look like this child ie. autism, bi-polar, ADHD… but this is different and still not an excuse for many behaviors).
When you talk about choices and consequences, we can’t forget to talk about the choices we make as parents. When you are imparting a “consequence” on your child’s choice I suggest you gravitate as close as you can to natural consequences for the action. This means: you spill it, you clean it; you knock it down, you clean it up; you choose that food, you eat it; you do something wrong, you make it better. Children cope better and begin to understand how to deal with these unwanted choices better when the consequence matches the choice. Now, sometimes this isn’t possible. We can’t let a child who runs into the road get hit by a car, but we can make it so they can’t play in that area for a time. We can’t let a child touch a stove and get burned, but we can have them leave the kitchen.
We as parents and teachers, need to discuss the positive and negative consequences to choices with children. This will help them see the relationship between them. We need to follow through on the consequences when we state them aloud to the child. It isn’t a battle of you and them… it is a matter of dealing with the consequences of the choices he/she made.
Tomorrow I will post the last part of this series… helping children see that every action is a choice… every action, and the need to take responsibility for their choices.
Remember, feel free to leave me a comment. I’d love to hear what you think