Tag Archives: choice

The Skinny on “Consequences”

Whenever I talk to parents about ending the use of rewards and punishments, I hear, “But doesn’t my child have to experience a consequence for her behavior?” Sounds logical; sounds appropriate. The problem is most parents don’t allow the kinds of consequences that actually teach lessons—natural ones.

Natural consequences of behavior often bring with them sadness, anger, disappointment, even failure for our children, which sometimes reflects negatively on us. We will do anything to avoid that—even by punishing. Taking away a privilege often shuts down a child’s unpleasant feelings or coerces corrected behavior—so we get what we want and think it’s working. Leaving our children to the natural consequences of their behavior may feel like abandoning them to the wolves.

Handing over the job of homework to your child may mean it doesn’t get done or turned in on time. Can you allow that? When children are hitting each other day in and day out, are you willing to learn how to facilitate conflict resolution so they learn to work out their own problems or do you insist on taking something away, blaming one of them, or enforcing separation? Far easier.

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Understanding Shared Power

When I tell parents to share power with their child, they get nervous. “Wait, I’m the parent? Aren’t I the one in charge?” Absolutely. Sharing power means that you both stand in your personal power. It does not mean that your child has the same power that you do. You are the parent, the authority, the one in charge, and the more you are confident in that power, the safer and more cared for your child feels. It’s when you lose it, when your temper flares and you feel out of control that your child feels unsafe and confused and will react accordingly. When power is lost, your child fears what is happening and may grab what power he can.

We have a choice—we can hold the power, giving our child none, keeping the dominator model; we can give our power away when we lack confidence, are afraid of power and give our children more than they can handle; or we can share it, insuring that all family members feel confident, strong and able to get their needs met. A child needs a cup of power compared to the many gallons of the parent.

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