This weeks Positive Discipline Parenting Tool is Natural Consequences. This is one that most people have heard about and many have tried to use. I say tried because I think it may also be the most misused tool.
The point of a natural consequence is that it just happens, naturally! It is not something that a parent can do or cause. It is something that is the result of choices that someone makes. An example of a natural consequence is when my daughter chooses to wear dress shoes when we will be walking all day and she gets blisters.
I think the hardest thing to remember is that you can't create natural consequence; usually the consequences that provide the greatest learning opportunity come a bit unexpectedly. One day, after many frustrating long drives home from pre-school with my daughter, I prepared her for a positive discipline experience. Before we began our drive, I told her that it is hard for me to concentrate on driving when she screams and kicks and cries. I told her that if she starts to lose control on our drive, then I would have to pull over and wait until she was calm and quiet before I would drive again. I told her that I brought my book, so I could read while we were pulled over and that she could let me know she was ready to continue our trip home by calmly saying, "I am ready to drive calmly mommy". I also might have mentioned something about it being dangerous to sit parked on the side of the road, and that police often give people tickets for stopping on the freeway. As usual, she started to scream and lose control about ten minutes into our 45 minute journey. I was on a major freeway, but luckily there was an extra wide shoulder coming up, so I pulled off to the side of the road. Within a few seconds of being stopped a large tow truck with flashing lights started approaching us, slowing down and over to the side. To my daughter, the truck looked a lot like a police vehicle. She started freaking out! "Please Mommy, I am so sorry, I am calm and I will never do that again, just please don't let the police man take me!" she said to me in the calmest voice possible. I waved the tow truck away and started the car and quickly drove away. I have to say, that was the last car fit we had to deal with to this day! I am not sure why she thought the police man would take her away and we later talked about that, but at the same time the natural consequence that occurred - the "police car" showing up at just the right time- was PERFECT. The natural consequence strengthened the lesson that I was attempting to share with her.
I have to laugh when I think about this story. It was really a comical scene in our car that day! Natural consequences can be pretty powerful teachers.
Next week we explore: Teach Children What To DO.