If you grew up in the 1900s, you might be forgiven for thinking that today’s parents have lost their minds. In our generation, discipline was synonymous with corporal punishment or what kids today call violence. That should ensure that every child walked in the straight and narrow path to success.
However, you might agree that most kids who were raised in that generation are battling some serious self-esteem issues. Including an inability to stand up for themselves, and even PTSD resulting from all the clobbering, insults, and threats that went on.
Because of such issues, numerous researchers and child development experts like Haim Ginott and Rudolf Dreikurs had to find a more child-friendly mode of disciplining and raising kids. They emphasized sparing the emotional and mental state of the child.
Positive parenting has come a long way over the last couple of decades, and there is more research supporting it. In essence, it is the opposite of a previous parenting culture and philosophy. It addresses the cause of the misbehaviour instead of punishing the person misbehaving.
Positive parenting is defined as a ‘continual relationship between a child and the parents that include caring, leading, teaching, communicating, and providing for the child’s needs unconditionally and consistently.’
The idea comes from the thought that children are intrinsically good. They want to do the right thing if given the right guidance and teachings.
Also read the article How to Introduce Positive Parenting
Positive parenting seeks to raise kids who are well-adjusted and build their self-esteem as opposed to destroying it. It does this by removing violence, insults, and any harsh language or tone from parenting. However, most people think that this means letting kids do whatever they want, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
In fact, consequences are the pillars that hold positive parenting together. They are the guidelines that govern how a child will behave at every stage of their development. Without consequences, positive parenting would not be possible because children would go haywire and lack discipline.
Where maintaining discipline and guiding children are concerned, there are two ways to go about it; consequences or punishment.
What’s the difference between the two?
Consequences are the results or direct effect of any action. This can be a positive or negative result, depending on which action was taken. The goal of consequences is to teach a lesson that will lead to positive choices. More importantly, consequences encourage self-examination, accepting responsibility for one’s action, and learning from their mistakes. Consequences are directly and logically connected, so it’s easy for the child to understand and accept them.
For example, a child misuses his phone or toy, and the parents take away the said item for a while. This is different from parents taking away the child’s toy because they fought with a peer because the two are not related in any way.
Punishment, on the other hand, is inflicting emotional or physical pain, and it’s meant to cause suffering. It is characterized by violence, criticism, disapproval, domination, and sarcasm. Instead of teaching positive choices, punishment causes resentment. It teaches children to rely on the outer voice giving commands instead of their inner voice of self-control.
Punishment also teaches children that fear, intimidation, and revenge are okay. That makes them susceptible to joining negative peer groups like gangs and cults. More importantly though, punishment damages the child’s self-esteem and does not facilitate secure child-parent attachment.
But the one place where punishment fails completely is that it emphasizes what not to do but never what to do instead.
In essence, the difference between consequences and punishment is that consequences help the child look at their mistake and correct them. Punishment makes the child direct their attention to their parents with feelings of hatred and frustration, instead of the mistake.
In positive parenting, a consequence is what happens to a child after an action. This can be a natural consequence such as hurting your leg after jumping on the couch, or imposed consequences such as having your phone taken away because you used it in class.
There are two types of consequences;
Positive consequences are results that occur after you do something right. In positive parenting, it is important to involve positive consequences as much as you do negative ones to reinforce good behaviour.
Positive consequences include praise, attention, and rewards. They operate under the logic that children are more likely to keep up with the good behaviour if they are appreciated and even rewarded for it.
Did the child spend less time in front of the TV to study? Show them some acknowledgment and mention it when their grades improve. Did they remember to clean their room, give them a big high five and say ‘good job’.
Negative consequences are what happens when the child misbehaves or does something bad to discourage that behaviour. The logic here is that children need to know the difference between right and wrong.
Some examples of negative consequences include losing privileges like TV, phone, and video games.
Be extremely careful with timeouts and ignoring the child. Positive parenting is not about rejecting the child as a person. It´s but directing the child´s attention to harmful behaviour and emotions that they need to correct.
Parents can also allow natural consequences to happen to their children for them to learn.
Consequences are easily the most important part of positive parenting because they reinforce good behaviour and discourage bad behaviour. If a child does something good that you would like them to continue doing, you reinforce it with attention, reward, recognition, and praise. If they misbehave, you use negative consequences to stop the bad behaviour and teach them how to behave better.
Consequences also provide kids with the tools they need to make good choices in their lives. By teaching them the law of cause and effect, you give them the power to choose what they want in their lives every day.
When used correctly, consequences in the context of positive parenting have the power to shape a child into a responsible and well behaved human being. There are two smart parenting tricks to teach consequences effectively;
The Observe and Describe method is used at the exact moment the child is misbehaving. You observe the behaviour and describe what they are doing. Then you explain what they should have done instead.
This method is used if your child continues to misbehave even after you have done Observe and Describe. For example, if they throw something in anger after you observe and describe the misbehaviour, you would say, “I understand you are mad because I said ‘no’ but it’s not okay to throw stuff. Since you threw that toy, you won’t have ice-cream today. If you can calm down and do what mummy said, then you can get a different treat later.
By using these two methods, you calmly but firmly teach the child that there are consequences to every action they take, good or bad. Most importantly, you do this without causing any resentment or friction between the two of you.
Among the most significant distinctions between consequences and punishment is how they are delivered to the child. To be effective, consequences must be delivered in a calm, matter of fact manner without any emotions. You might want to take a minute or two to compose yourself and think through the consequences before you deliver them to your child.
Ask yourself, is what you are about to say meant to teach them something, or are you doing it because they made you mad? Will you be able to deliver the consequence in a safe way using a respectful tone? Does your body language and tone say consequences or punishment?
These six tips have been helpful to many parents when delivering consequences;
Choosing consequences over punishment when raising children who continuously push your boundaries will be one of the hardest things you have ever done. The trick is taking a minute out for yourself to get your emotions out of it. Handle the rest like you would if you were in the office, calmly and tactfully.
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