October 1, 2019

Give Them a Gift

As Kathy describes in Chapter 6 of Start with the Heart, we can employ a number of different techniques to improve our kids’ motivation. All but one – natural consequences – involve us as parents making conscious choices about means and methods of punishment and reward. Natural consequences, though, occur…well, naturally. For example, the natural consequence of releasing your grip on a mug of coffee is that it will fall to the floor; the coffee will spill and the mug may even shatter. Because of gravity and other natural laws of physics, this is the expected (natural) consequence. You’re not surprised by it and, as you clean up the mess you’ve made, you process through what caused the accident (i.e., the handle was too hot) and consider ways to avoid a repeat performance (i.e., remembering to use a hot pad when grabbing a cup that’s likely to be too warm). 

Loving parents don’t want their kids to suffer. We would give our very lives for them and we would – if we could – take away all their pain. And we should, of course, do everything within our power to help them avoid serious injury. But we can’t wrap them in physical or mental bubble wrap; hurt of one sort or another will, unfortunately, come to each and every one of our kids. With that truth in mind, we can harness the power of appropriate natural consequences in little things to help our children learn lessons that may help them avoid serious issues down the line.

For example, one of my daughters wanted to quit guitar lessons about a year and a half after starting. However, rather than ask if she could give it up, she simply stopped practicing. I wasn’t aware of this for several weeks because she typically practiced in her room behind closed doors, and she actually told me more than once that she was practicing. When her lies to me became apparent, I obviously dealt with that via logical, negative consequences; I never take lying lightly. In addition, though, I let her suffer the natural consequences of her choice – i.e., she felt embarrassed at her lessons when she went unprepared and eventually had to confess her behavior and apologize to her guitar teacher. I hated to see her in pain; it would have been “easier” to make excuses for her. However, if I’d stepped in to save her some short-term angst, I’d have prevented her from learning some very important lessons that will apply all throughout her life. In case you’re wondering, I did allow her to stop taking lessons since her initial interest had waned – but only after she’d worked through all the consequences of her poor choice.

We obviously can’t let our kids suffer natural consequences all the time; it would be immoral, for example, to knowingly let a child touch the flame on a stovetop or to knowingly drop a teen off at a beer party. But it’s damaging in different ways – not to mention impossible – to try “protecting” them from every natural consequence. Instead, give them the gift of working through relatively harmless natural consequences with your guidance and support.


Photo Credit: SabrinaDan Photo

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