This is Week Six of the Empowered Families series here at My Sacred Sojourn. If this is your first time, you may want to begin by reading:
So, you've been giving your kids tools and creating a safe place to practice using them. You've been modeling those tools and showing them how to use them in your own relationships. And then BAM! Your child makes a poor decision and the results are not pretty! What now?
The first question you need to ask yourself is, "Whose problem is this?" The quickest way to find out the answer is to ask yourself, "If I do nothing about this problem, what will happen to ME?" If the answer is nothing, then you do not have ownership of the problem. If you jump in to fix it without allowing your child to take ownership, you've essentially robbed them of the opportunity to learn from this situation and strengthen their "responsibility muscles."
So, what is a "natural consequence"? A natural consequence is delivered by nature, society or another person (definition source). Children need to learn that there are consequences to their actions in order to develop personal responsibility. For instance, if you refuse to wear a jacket to school, you'll get cold during recess. Don't want to eat dinner? You'll probably get hungry before the next meal. Hit your sister? She won't want to play with you for awhile. These are the natural reactions to the child's behavior.
Many times I've heard of parents trying to generate "creative punishment." But if the punishment has no real connection to the behavior issue, it won't make sense to the child and the lesson won't stick. It doesn't make any sense to withhold dessert after dinner if your child refused to take out the trash. Those two things are not naturally linked and no real learning will take place.
As a parent, I know it's hard to let the natural consequences run their course. I don't want my children to be unhappy, lonely, or hungry. But I know that this temporary discomfort is creating in them character and helping them develop responsibility.
Is it hard for you to let your child work through the natural consequences of their decisions? Consider the long-term goals you have as a parent. What kind of adult do you want them to be? Does thinking about the end goal make it easier in the present?