Parenting Vivian | 27 Mar 2011 07:13 pm

Effective Discipline For Children – Healthy Consequences

The word “discipline” literally means to educate, teach and train. Effective discipline of children is not to punish, control or manipulate. In her book, ‘Kids are Worth It!’ author Barbara Coloroso discusses that effective discipline does four things that punishment does not: shows children what they’ve done wrong; gives children ownership of the problem; helps children find ways to solve the problem; and leaves a child’s dignity intact.

Even though at the time, imposing healthy consequences may feel like punishment to a child, when done effectively, it can promote stronger relationships.

Consequences for children can be either natural or logical (imposed by parents). A natural consequence is something that happens naturally as a result of some action, or inaction. It does not take any decision or effort for it to happen. Natural consequences can be more positive and desired, neutral or negative and unwelcome. An example of a positive natural consequence is when a child remembers to wear a coat on a cold day and feels warm and comfortable. Or a negative unpleasant consequence would be the child does not remember to wear a coat on a cold day and gets chilled.

An imposed consequence is also something that happens as a result of some action or inaction; somebody must intentionally do something to make the consequence happen. Imposed consequences are determined and implemented by parents and caregivers. When parents are put in a position to impose consequences, it can be more effective if the consequences are reasonable, simple, practical and maybe most importantly, a valuable learning tool. If it isn’t all four of these, the consequence is probably not going to be effective and it could be punishment in disguise.

There are three types of imposed consequences, affirming, disciplinary, or punishing. Imposed affirming consequences focus on something positive and appreciated about a child, acknowledging a quality, gift or attribute, basic worth, or an accomplishment. For instance, a teenager gets more privileges driving a car with good responsible driving habits.

An imposed disciplinary consequence focuses on establishing structure, setting limits, helping children mature and become more respectful and responsible. For instance, a parent imposes limits for a teenager who does not show responsibility when using the family car.

Imposed punishing consequences are often unrelated to the issue or misbehavior and usually have the goal of causing pain or loss on the child’s part. This is certainly a less than healthy way for parents to impose consequences. For instance, a parent may take all privileges away from a teenager who does not show responsibility using the family car.

It is the certainty and not the severity of a consequence that is important. Parents benefit when they understand that the most minimal consequence possible that makes the point and accomplishes the mission of that consequence will most likely be the most effective and healthy consequence, and often is the easiest for a parent to impose and manage.

One of the biggest challenges facing parents is when to step in and impose consequences. If natural consequences will help a child learn, then many times a parent imposing consequences is not necessary. If the situation is not life-threatening, morally threatening or unhealthy, a parent should give strong consideration as whether imposing a consequence is necessary.

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