Natural Consequences - The Power of Our Own Choices

  • The Power of Our Own Choices

    Offering a child a choice can teach a very powerful lesson.  This shows a child that he/she is responsible for his/her own choices, and therefore he/she has control of the outcome.  For example, if a child does not want to complete her homework, you might say something like, "your choice is either to complete your homework and earn TV time, or not complete it and not be allowed to watch TV."  It is important that when presenting the choice you use a neutral tone of voice and communicate through your tone and body language that this is something matter-of-fact, rather than parent-imposed.  If you use a tone that says, "I am expecting you to make the choice I want you to make", it is equivalent to making a "threat" of punishment.

    Another way to use this strategy is to present activities in a natural order, and ensure that the activities are completed in that order.  For example, if the order of events after school is homework, then dinner, then TV, then bath, we cannot move on to dinner until homework is complete.

    Yet another way to use natural consequences is...naturally!  Many of us have the urge to help our children avoid negative experiences, but in reality everyone needs to go through these at some point.  Why not allow them to teach your child for you?  For example, if your child is struggling to get ready in the morning but doesn't want to be driven to school, you might choose to allow him to be late rather than constantly reminding him to "pick up the pace". The natural consequence of taking too long here is being driven to school, and since he does not like this he is more likely to move more quickly tomorrow without parent reminders.

    The trick the grown-up you need to be able to accept either choice she makes!  If you find that TV isn't a powerful enough reinforcer, you can always pick something else next time.  But if you offer a choice and she chooses not to do the homework and not watch TV, you need to accept it and allow her to experience the natural consequences of her choice (no TV, a poor grade, doing HW at lunch, etc.).

    Natural consequences are OK!  We want children to learn from a very young age that their actions have consequences in the real world, and their choices shape their lives.