Hey Mommies!… Parenting is tough and there’s a million different viewpoints on how to parent, but one thing I’ve learned is that kids need consequences.
I cannot tell you the number of times I have seen a parent tell their child “No honey. Don’t do that. No, that’s not okay. You need to stop hitting. That’s not nice. Do you need a time out? Do you need to go to your room?” But then there is never a consequence given!
The child continues to do whatever it is the parent is trying to stop them from doing because they are not learning that there is a consequence for their action.
Consequences are a part of life. There are consequences to every decision we make. Some consequences are good and some are bad.
For example, in your adult life- The consequence of a healthy diet and exercise is good health and fitness. The consequence of drinking way too much is likely a hangover and feeling like crap the next day.
Some people may think that babies and toddlers can be too young to understand consequences but really they aren’t.
Consequences are like cause and effect. From birth, a baby starts to learn cause and effect. When they cry, you attend to their needs. When they’re hungry, you feed them. When they’re dirty, you change them. When they laugh and smile, you laugh and smile. When they push a button on a toy, it does something.
That’s why consequences can also start being applied with parenting and discipline early on. You can start teaching your child acceptable and unacceptable behaviors through consequences.
Here’s some examples of how consequences can be applied…
Let’s say your baby keeps getting in the trashcan. You can give a warning. Tell them no touching, the trash is dirty, and it’s not for babies. If they don’t listen and keep touching, the consequence is that they are removed from the trashcan.
Now let’s say, your baby/toddler keeps throwing their food on the floor. You can tell them “No throwing. Food stays on tray.” If they keep doing it, you can remove their food and only give them one piece at a time or you can take over feeding them for awhile until they are ready to feed themselves again. OR, if your child is a little older, you can even have them pick up the food they have thrown on the floor. That’s the consequence of throwing food.
One more example. Let’s say your child is running away from you while you’re at a store or outside. You can discuss that they need to stay close and it’s not safe to run. If they continue to do it, then the consequences could be having to ride in the cart instead of walking, leaving the store, or going in from outside because they could not follow directions.
With all of these examples, if your child does listen to you and follows your directions or requests, the consequence can be positive praise, hugs, cheering- “YAY buddy! Thank you so much for listening to Mommy! That was so nice and responsible of you!” You could even use little rewards such as a little treat or extra play time or something. The consequence of listening and doing as asked results in a very positive, reinforcing experience.
With all of these examples, you’re teaching your child the cause and effect of their actions. If they do not listen, there is a certain consequence. If they do listen, there is another type of consequence.
If you follow through, your child will very quickly start to learn and understand that you mean business and that there will be some type of consequence for what they are doing. You can choose any type of consequence you’d like and are comfortable with, but if there is not a consequence, your child will not learn to change their behavior.
If all you ever do is tell your child “No” or “Stop that” without there ever being any type of repercussion, your child will continue to think that the behavior they are doing is acceptable because they have never been shown otherwise. In the same way, if you were to never praise and explain to your child when they did something good, they would never know that what they did was a desired response.
Every child will push boundaries and test limits. It’s your choice as a parent to decide how you handle it. But I can definitely tell you that consequences are incredibly effective since they are a natural part of life.
By: Emily Bettis, MOT/L
Emily Bettis, MOT/L is a pediatric occupational therapist and mother. She has been working with children birth-5 since 2008 and has been a mother since 2013. Emily is the founder and author HeyMommies.com