Life is all about making choices and dealing with the consequences. Good choices lead to good consequences, which we usually refer to as rewards. Bad choices lead to bad consequences, which we usually refer to as punishment. However in calling consequences either rewards or punishments tends to confuse us as parents, and skews our view of parenting.
Consequences are simply the results of our choices.
In parenting, one of our main goals is to teach our kids that their choices have consequences. However, they don’t necessarily need to be rewards or punishments; they can just be naturally occurring consequences. You don’t always have to take something away, and you don’t always have to give something to your child. Does that make sense?
If you want your child to do their homework right away when they get home from school, tell them so. Then give them a choice: they can get their homework done asap, and then have the rest of the evening to play, or they can sit at the table (desk or where ever) until they are ready to do their homework. If they make a good choice, they can have more play time (good consequence). If they make a bad choice, they delay their play time (bad consequence). In this instance, you are not “rewarding” your child with something that wasn’t already going to happen. And you’re not “punishing” them by taking something away. It is all up to them and what they choose to do.
Setting the parameters.
This works for just about any situation. All you have to do is set up the parameters:
- Determine what you are wanting your child to do.
-Get ready for bed
-Clean up toys
- Clearly state the consequences to your child.
-If you don’t get ready for bed now, we won’t have time for a story. But if you move quickly, we can read together.
-When you are done cleaning up your toys, we can have lunch (leave for a party, go to a friend’s house, whatever). The longer you take, the less time we will have for (enter in your thing here).
-If you don’t go decide what you are going to wear now, then I will choose your clothes for you.
- Always follow through. Whatever the consequences you have laid out to your child, you must follow through. If you don’t, your child will come to learn that you do not mean what you say, and that their choices don’t have any real consequences.