Updated: Jan 9
The phone rang just a few minutes after my daughter left for school with her neighborhood posse. The number came up on my cell as her elementary school’s number. As my mind typically works, horrible images flashed, and I was ready to spring into action. Was she hurt? Hit by a car? Punched by a bully? This brain of mine! All this was running through my mind as I quickly answered the phone. I heard N’s calm voice on the other end and my first question was to ask if she was ok. Yes, of course she was ok and my thought gremlins slowed their frantic pace. She continued to explain that she forgot her signed permission slip that was due and would get detention if she didn’t have it. “Could you please bring it, Mom?”.
Natural consequences occur as a result of one’s actions. For example, if you don’t do the laundry, you won’t have any clean clothes. If you pound your hand against the table, your hand will hurt. And if you don’t bring your signed permission slip as required, you get detention.
Unfortunately for our daughter, this was something I had thought about often and was a pillar of my teaching and parenting philosophy. Therefore, she knew the answer even before it came out of my mouth, “You want me to get in trouble, don’t you?” she sneered into the phone. It’s not that I wanted her to get in trouble, quite the opposite. I hate to see her get in trouble! What I did want, was for her to deal with the natural consequences so she could learn from them.
Fortunately for N, (unfortunately in my opinion) she was given a reprieve from detention and told to simply bring the signed permission slip the next day. When N told me of the extension, she was quite sheepish and knew I wouldn’t approve of the outcome. What this situation did for us was create the perfect opportunity for us to talk about natural consequences. I wanted her to know that this was something I’ve thought long and hard about and it wasn’t that I enjoyed watching her get in trouble.
I refuse to be the Lawnmower parent/teacher that mows down all obstacles in the path of my children/students. The reason is that the only lesson a student learns when someone interferes with natural consequences is that they have someone who will fix the problem. People are not able to learn from their actions if there are no consequences.
So, how can you help your children/students deal with natural consequences and stop the cycle of fixing their problems? It is a great idea to start as soon as possible on something of little consequence such as a forgotten piece of homework. These small lessons will lead to a better understanding of natural consequences when something of greater significance occurs.
1. Give your children age appropriate responsibilities. Everyone likes to feel useful and see the positive results of their contributions. Consider allowing your children to choose the things for which they would like to be responsible. Teach the skill (if they don’t already know how to complete the chore) so they know exactly what is expected. This sense of responsibility typically spills over into all facets of their lives. The excellent blog Proud to Be Me which promotes responsible living, reiterates this very point stating that when children have a “feeling of independence, they have more confidence to try new things and expand their capabilities.”
2. Speak to your children about natural consequences, explain their importance and what we learn from them.
3. And most importantly, ignore those text messages and phone calls asking you to bring something they’ve forgotten!
Sure, you may get some ugly emojis in response or a sneering voice through the phone, but you are helping your child grow into a responsible human being.
April Remfrey is an American special needs consultant living and loving life in Switzerland. Please feel free to share this blog post by giving credit to the author and the website link: www.remfreyeducationalconsulting.com