Natural consequences -cleaning up after making a messI am not an advocate of soft parenting. I believe strongly that children need effective guidance and discipline. But over the years I am beginning to realise that no child ever truly learned from being punished – you know the kind where we, as parents wade in and decide what ‘punishment’ to use. Such as grounding, isolation, humiliation, shouting or smacking.

Discipline comes from the word disciple, to teach. It is our job as parents to teach our children how to behave, not punish them so they behave out of fear, when we are around. If punishment worked our prisons would be empty!

Children are very capable of learning from their behaviour and particularly learning from mistakes. But we have to help them learn rather than making them so resentful and angry that their own mistake pales into insignificance.

Could you tell me, when did you last appreciate an adult shouting at you because you did something wrong? How you would feel is someone hit you to ‘help you learn’? So why should our children be any different? Why should they feel that hitting and shouting is OK? If we give our children respect, they will treat us with respect. If we give them opportunities to learn, they will become independent, capable adults.

I am a strong believer in rules and routines and believe that sometimes children need time out to calm down. I also consider that natural consequences are the ideal way to teach our children the impact of their behaviour impact on themselves and others.

So what do I mean by natural consequences?

Well if a child hurts someone they can make it up by doing something nice for that person

When a child refuses to eat their meal they get hungry

When a child forgets their lunch money or packed lunch, they have no lunch

When a child won’t wear a coat or gloves they get cold

When they break something they don’t have it anymore or can use their own money to pay for a new one

When they lose their coat or item of school uniform they pay for a new one

When they run out of money, they can’t buy anything else, unless they earn more.

When they break something they do jobs to pay for the breakage

When they don’t put their dirty clothes in the laundry basket, their clothes don’t get washed

When they jump in puddles in shoes they have to wear wet shoes

When they spill their drink on the carpet, they are only allowed drinks in the kitchen

When they create a huge fuss about turning off the TV then they don’t watch TV the next day.

If they draw on a wall, all their crayons get taken away

If they make a mess they clean it up

If they can’t play nicely then it is the end of the activity for them. (But not necessarily for others).

If they don’t get ready for bed without a fuss, then there will only be time for one story.

If they steal money from their parents there is only money for the cheapest value food.

If they lie, they may not be believed or trusted in the future.

If they lose their temper, they get time out to calm down.

But as parents we often jump in to try and ‘save’ our children from that learning. We feel we are ‘bad’ parents if we let our children suffer the consequences of their behaviour. We are worried that other people will think we are cruel or uncaring. So we give them a biscuit if they are hungry. We carry their coat in case they are cold. We rush to the school with the item they have forgotten. We replace the mobile they lost. We tidy their bedroom.

And what do our children learn? That they don’t have to think for themselves. That they can have anything they want if they make enough fuss. That they are ‘victims’ who need to be rescued. And that is the lesson we teach them for future life.

We learn more from our mistakes than from our successes. If a child does not learn that money is limited, as an adult they may get into debt. If a child does not learn to eat a healthy diet, as they grow up they may be