"Kindness in thought
leads to wisdom. Kindness in speech leads to eloquence. Kindness
in action leads to love."
We use natural consequences with our
children. My three-year-old never wants to wear a coat in the
winter. If we're going somewhere and he refuses, I leave it at
home. When my ten year old leaves his roller blades outside, I
leave them there so he will see that they can be damaged by the
weather and learn to take better care of his things. When I play a
game with him and he gets mad, the natural consequence is that I
put the game away. How do you handle these kinds of situations?
If Dagny or Rowan wanted to go outside
without a coat in the cold, I would tell her to let me know if she
changed her mind and send her out with a kiss. Both of my kids do
go out in much less clothing than I would be comfortable in and
are perfectly comfortable. I can't feel their bodies. They can.
I would not leave a child's coat at home if
we were going somewhere. I used to ask the kids whether they'd
like to wear coats. If they said no, I would throw some in the car
in case they wanted them later. Now I just keep a bag in the back
of the car with sweaters and jackets, so there's always one
available if someone wants it. The way I see it, it is my
responsibility to meet their needs - clothe them when they are
cold, feed them when they are hungry, comfort them when they are
sad. The fact that they're not cold now does not mean that they
won't be cold later, and it's easy enough to plan for that
contingency. Learning to plan for future possibilities is
something that comes with time. Until Rowan and Dagny take on that
responsibility for themselves, I will happily do it for them.
Being cold because your mother decided not
to bring a coat for you so you'd learn a lesson is not a natural
consequence. It is a punishment. The thing about natural
consequences is that you don't make them happen. They are the
consequences that happen naturally. Any time a parent plans for
something unpleasant to happen to her child so that she will learn
a lesson, it is a punishment.
If you want to have an egalitarian
relationship with your children, it is necessary to examine your
language very closely. Many times people use euphemisms
(particularly for punishment) without even realizing it, and
'natural consequences' seems to be a popular one these days.
If my child left something outside that
would be better off indoors, I would bring it in for her. The
natural consequence of that is that my children feel loved.
If you do things for your children out of
love, they learn to do the same. When Dagny forgets to put her
bike away, Jon does it. When Jon left a drink on the counter
because he got distracted from getting his dinner, Dagny put it in
the refrigerator. Treating children thoughtfully lets them
experience good feelings that they're going to want to share with
the people they love.
Putting the game away is a consequence you
decided on, not a natural consequence. It's a punishment designed
to get him to behave in the way you want him to behave.
I like my kids to tell me when they're mad
or upset (or happy, or scared, or...). Rowan gets frustrated
playing games sometimes. We usually just end up changing the rules
to make it more fun - maybe make it a cooperative game instead of
a competitive one, or make up something silly to do while we roll
the dice. Often she makes up her own rules, and I'm just along for
the ride. After all, the point of our playing together is
enjoyment. If we're not having fun, something needs to change, and
it's not the child.
Instead of focusing on teaching kids a
lesson, parents can focus on making their children's lives
comfortable and joyful.