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Use Consequences To Help Children Learn

The trouble with punishing children sit that its main purpose is to make them suffer. Suffering by itself is not a very good teacher. In fact, suffering is useless unless we learn from it. One of the best ways to teach children the importance of obedience is the use consequences. Consequences are intended to teach children rather than to punish them.

Wallace Goddard, family life specialist with the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, lists several tips for using consequences in disciplining children:

*The best consequences are those that are the logical result of a child’s choices. For example, if an older child fails to put his soiled clothes in the laundry basket, the natural consequence may be that he has to wear dirty clothes the next day. If a child has not completed chores or homework, a logical consequence may be that that things must be completed before the child can play or watch television.

*Consequences must be administered in a helpful way. If harsh consequences are delivered in an angry way, they are really punishment. The real test of consequences is whether they express the natural, reasonable result of the child’s choices.

*Set children up for success rather than failure. For example, if you expect your child-- especially a younger child—to pick up toys before he goes outside to play, help him to get started. If you do the job without the child’s help, you are not teaching him to be responsible. If you coldly demand the behavior without support and encouragement, you are launching a power struggle. The best way to work with children is to use a combination of charm and encouragement that helps them get started.

*Remember, there are also times when consequences are not appropriate. Good sense must set limits on consequences. For example, don’t let a child wander out into traffic in order to teach him about safety! Compassion also sets bounds for consequences. On those rare occasions when a child is overwhelmed by many demands, volunteer to wash the dishes in the child’s place. If a child has had an unusually bad day, he may need comfort more than consequences for failing to do a household chore.

*Proper use of consequences is a vital skill for parents to develop. According to Goddard, many parents have a tendency to shield children too much or to demand and punish them too much. Some parents waver back and forth between the too extremes. Notice your tendencies. If you tend to overprotect your child, you may need to sharpen your skills at using consequences. Be prepared to be friendly, but firm. If your tendency is to be tough with children, you may benefit from using consequences as an expression in a supportive way to teach your child the advantages of acting in the desired ways.

For Release: Week of 06/21/04

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