Consequences…to many people, it is a four letter word! In this day of “being my child’s best friend,” it is a concept that changes with the mood of the day! I grew up in a time when consequences for breaking rules or showing misbehavior were always immediate and impressionable. Therefore, I find it difficult to understand why parents don’t use consequences more in guiding their children’s growth. I am a constant witness to the blackmail children use to persuade their parents’ behavior. It seems the shoe is on the wrong foot.
One of my previous students was so angry that his mother wouldn’t buy him a video game he wanted, that he marched out into the middle of our local WalMart parking lot and started crying and screaming at the top of his lungs. He told all customers passing by that she was going to beat him when they left. He pleaded with them to save him. Consequently, someone called the police and the mother got a visit from the Department of Human Services. This six-year-old thought it was funny that her mom got into trouble. Perhaps it is the fear of being reported to the authorities that prevents parents from using more successful discipline methods.
If we look around us, nature is full of consequences which result from certain actions or conditions. If plants aren’t watered, they die. In the same way, if plants aren’t pruned, they become a massive array of unwanted growth…often preventing the growth of flowers or fruit, which was the original purpose for the plant. So it seems to be with our children: leave them to their own desires and habits without any guidance, and the paths upon which they may travel could be disastrous!
The other problem I’ve seen with consequences is the habit of many parents in reacting instead of thinking through a situation. Thus, a child is restricted in a certain way for two weeks. Then, it becomes a burden for the parent to constantly monitor the status of the punishment. It takes thought to carry out a successful consequence, but the results are usually positive change.
The last problem I see in this area is the failure of many in carrying out the consequence they promised the child. Our “busy” lifestyle often causes a memory lapse…and the child simply outwaits the parent. Don’t say you’re going to do something if you have no intention of carrying it out. As an administrator, I learned to think quickly on my feet. To prevent such a memory lapse, I promised the child to be disciplined that it would be a “Woe be unto you!” They always asked what that meant. I smiled and said, “Just you wait and see! It isn’t good!” Then, I would go and consult all of my “how-to manuals” and find the best solution I could. To this day, I’ve had former students mention my “Woe be unto you!” speeches.