Whenever I speak to parents about discipline, amongst other things, we discuss developmentally appropriate expectations, consistency, positive alternatives, and immediate, natural consequences. Immediate, natural consequences are particularly important to explain because often, they don’t come immediately or naturally, to a grown up.
First things first: what is an immediate, natural consequence? Using positive discipline begins by teaching babies to be cooperative and as children grow in to toddlers, setting limits for them. When children are learning the things that they can and cannot do, what is safe and not safe, parents can give positive alternatives (keep an eye out for an upcoming post on this topic) or a consequence for their behavior. Choosing a consequence that occurs right away and fits the “crime,” adds meaning and increases the likelihood that it will have an impact on your child.
Now some examples for clarity: If your dear daughter knocks her brother down while they are playing in the morning, taking away a bedtime television show would be inappropriate. Not only is that too many hours away for a young child to remember and connect to, it is also disconnected from what she has done. Instead, have her check on her brother to be sure he is okay. Perhaps she’ll need to play with whatever game he has chosen, rather than choosing her own. Maybe she’ll need to take a break to calm her body until she can play safely with her brother. On another occasion your loving son may run down the street on the way to school, scaring the bejeezus out of you and clearly defying your rule that he hold on to his stroller while he walks. Telling him he can’t have ice cream when you go to the park in the evening is neither an immediate, nor natural, consequence. Rather, explain to him that when he runs down the street, he is telling you he can’t walk safely. You might choose to give him a second chance or you might say that when he runs down the street he isn’t being safe, and that means he needs to be in his stroller. In a few minutes, he can try again to walk safely.
You’ll need to consider your child, the behavior, your family rules, and the type of discipline you have used in the past, when creating your own immediate, natural consequences that will be effective. Using positive discipline is what I consider “best practice.” It’s the response grown-ups hope they will have in reaction to their children’s behavior. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen that way. Grown ups are human and sometimes we yell or react in another way wish we hadn’t. By thinking ahead of time about some of the situations that come up for our children, and getting in to the habit of using immediate, natural consequences, we can handle these situations better and more easily. Even if you haven’t used positive discipline with your child in the past, if you commit to the technique and are consistent, positive alternatives, limit setting and immediate, natural consequences can be effective. Positive discipline helps your child internalize the rules. Have questions about immediate, natural consequences for a specific situation? Post them here or send me an email. I’m here to help!