The Consequence of Using Consequences

February 26th, 2011 by Dionna | 40 Comments
Posted in Carnival and Special Series, Gentle Discipline Ideas, Successes, and Suggestions, Gentle/Positive Discipline, Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, My Family, natural parenting, Respond with Sensitivity

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In a recent Facebook discussion about moving away from rewards/punishments (or consequences) and moving toward making real connections with our children,1 one reader remarked:

I don’t really see the harm in teaching a child that their actions have consequences. Isn’t that the first step in helping our children live in a civilized society? As long as the consequences are not unfair and fit the behavior, I think it is probably a good thing to teach. I explain to my son that if he does A (positive behavior), one thing will happen; and if he does B (negative behavior), a different thing will happen. I help him decide which action he will choose and that way give him autonomy. If he makes what adults would consider the ‘right’ choice, then he gets praise. But if the other choice is made, we go through with the consequence without any further anger/frustration etc. on my part. When these occasions happen (and they are few and far between) the matter is always resolved quickly and happily and the ‘wrong’ choice is rarely repeated.2

I agree with this statement to an extent. For example, I have no qualms with saying, “if you put your hand on that hot pot, then you will get burned and it will hurt.” Where I’ve started to differ is in consequences that are meant solely to extinguish an unwanted behavior. For example, “if you try to put your hand on that hot pot again, then you will not be able to eat any of the applesauce that we are making.” The consequences there are to deter the child from touching the hot pot, but they don’t make much sense – that kiddo is probably just really excited to eat applesauce. Why not focus on that feeling of excitement instead of the behavior? (“It is so exciting to make special treats, isn’t it? I’m really hungry for applesauce too, but we can’t touch the pot because it is hot and we will get hurt. How about we set this timer, and when it beeps we will know that the applesauce is done cooking. While the applesauce cooks, let’s go play a game!”)

Same thing for any other situation: “If you don’t take your dinner plate to the sink, then you will not get dessert.” If we focus on why the child does not want to take his plate in, we’re more likely to deepen our connection with him – to find a way to cooperate – than if we merely threaten to take away some privilege.

Using rewards and consequences works against my goal of deepening my connection with my child. It may also work against my goal of encouraging my child to behave in a way that is respectful, safe, and kind, since rewards and consequences do little to teach children why certain behavior is inappropriate, inconvenient, or dangerous.

2011-02-11 04

Fun on the trampoline!

Up until Kieran was born, I would have agreed entirely with the quote above. In fact, some of my interactions with Kieran still reflect this belief. Just the other day, I took Kieran and one of his friends to a gym for “open preschool gymnastics.” One of the rules of the gym is that only one child can be on their trampolines at a time. But darn it – those trampolines are fun, and Kieran and his friend wanted to jump together! I don’t blame them. I cannot tell you how many times I said “Kieran, please get off, it’s Joshua’s turn.” Or “Joshua, please let Kieran have his turn for another minute, then it will be your turn.” I cannot tell you how many times they ignored me. And so there were several instances where I was frustrated (because they were ignoring me) and embarrassed (because one of the staff members had to come over and ask the boys to take turns).

And what did I find myself doing? Doling out consequences. “Kieran, if you do not get off the trampoline right now, we are going to go sit on the benches for a minute so that we can calm down.” Would that have solved the problem? I don’t know – I guess he would have thought twice about getting on the trampoline when Joshua was jumping.

The Problem with Consequences

So what’s wrong with threatening (albeit in a kind but firm voice) consequences? I do not want to make Kieran’s chief motivation for behaving in a certain way to *avoid consequences*, and that is what doling out consequences teaches children. “If you do this, then that negative thing will happen.” The children avoid doing “this” in order to avoid “that,” the motivation is not internal, but external.

Instead, I’d like Kieran to understand more why behavior may or may not be acceptable. I want to model for him – and for him to act out of – respect to others, concern for his own well-being, etc. (And I’m not saying that parents who believe in using consequences/punishments do NOT want these things! We are just working toward this end goal in two different ways.)

As the authors of Respectful Parents Respectful Kids discuss, I believe that using rewards/punishments do not further Kieran’s safety or trust in himself or in me. I believe that they take away his desire to cooperate with me. I believe that consequences/punishments make him resentful, and rewards take away his inherent pleasure from whatever “positive” behavior he is doing.3

Focus on Needs, Not Behavior

When I focus on Kieran’s behavior (by doling out rewards or consequences) instead of the needs and/or feelings behind the behavior, I miss what’s really going on. I am not teaching him how to address his needs, I’m just teaching him to do or not to do X or Y.

What’s more, focusing on Kieran’s behavior tends to make me more frustrated. When I’m concentrating on how he might be inconveniencing me (i.e., if he makes a mess that I’ll have to clean up, or he is having a meltdown and it’s giving me a headache, etc.), I am making the behavior about me. When I concentrate on why he might be making a mess (he likes the feel of the flour running through his fingers! he likes to manipulate the water pouring in and out of the cups!) or having a meltdown (he’s hungry! tired! lonely!), I forget about how it affects me – I focus on Kieran’s needs, and I’m more willing and able to help him meet those needs in appropriate ways.

For example, let’s say Kieran is throwing his toys across the room. I have a choice – I could focus on the behavior, and it might look like this:

“Kieran! Stop throwing those toys! Look, you could break my nice picture frame. You could put a hole in the wall. You could break the toy. And now we have to clean up a big mess!” What kind of response would this get for me? Probably an even grumpier, sadder Kieran.

Instead, what if I responded by focusing on the needs behind the behavior:

“Kieran, I see you are throwing your toys. Are you frustrated about something? You were working on a puzzle over there, did you need help finishing it?” (Checking in to see if he’s frustrated) or “It’s been awhile since we had a snuggle and a snack, do you want to help me get some fruit cut up?” (Checking in to see if he has a creature comfort that has not been met). There are so many ways I could choose to make a connection with Kieran, rather than jumping to consequences.

Alternatives to Consequences

So . . . how could I have connected with Kieran at gymnastics instead of threatening to take him away from the trampoline? Here are a few ideas I had in retrospect:

  1. Explain the natural consequences: “When two people jump on the trampoline at the same time, they might jump too close together and bonk heads. That could hurt both of you.”
  2. Sit them down and let them work out a solution: If parents refrained from intervening, or if they gave children the choice to find a solution on their own, they  will often be surprised by what kids can come up with without our “help.”
  3. Offer alternatives: If they were having trouble coming up with a workable solution, I could have offered several alternatives and let them choose which they preferred. (i.e., “Should we find something different to do for awhile, and then come back to the trampolines and take turns? Or maybe we could have one person wait for the trampoline next to this one so you could jump at the same time? Or we could move to the small trampolines where no one is jumping?”)
  4. Turn waiting into a game: “While you are waiting for your turn to jump, I’m going to push you on this big foam ball!”
  5. Turn taking turns into a game: “Let’s do some counting during each of your turns. Kieran, you jump on the trampoline and we’ll count to 30. Joshua, you jump in the foam pit and we’ll count to 30. Once we say 30, you have to switch as FAST as you can. Ready? GO!”
  6. Help him identify his feelings: “It is frustrating to wait sometimes, isn’t it? It makes you angry that you have to let someone else have a turn. You really want to be on that trampoline right now. I wish I could jump on it too. Let’s jump here on the floor together and talk about how mad we are!”
  7. Offered him the choice of taking a breather: Sometimes kids just need a minute to calm down, and if we help them learn to identify this feeling, they can learn to willingly take that minute themselves. Kieran is usually pretty good about taking time to breathe and reflect if he’s feeling to worked up, and I could have offered that as a choice instead of threatening him with “a minute to calm down on the bench.” When it’s a threat, when that choice is taken from the child, the moment to breathe will not be nearly as effective.

What about you – do you notice a difference when you focus on needs rather than on behaviors?

Do you feel that consequences are a normal part of discipline, or do you try to avoid using them?

What do you do instead of using consequences?

  1. By the way, the Facebook discussion stemmed from a conversation on the NPN Forums out of our online book discussion about Respectful Parents Respectful Kids – if this post is interesting to you, I encourage you to join us!
  2. I asked my reader if it was ok to use her quote for this post, and I sent her a very rough draft of what I was planning on talking about. She clarified her first paragraph with a second. She said: Depending on the ‘crime’ the consequence does not need to be a punishment. Very often I will say ‘if you do such and such mummy will be upset’ or ‘if you do such and such mummy will be very happy and proud.’ Consequences needn’t always be about time outs or confiscations. Even when I have used concrete consequences for negative behavior I use the opportunity to tell my son how is actions have affected myself and/or others. And most importantly I explain to my son the consequences of his actions for both negatives and positives.
  3. For more, see Respectful Parents Respectful Kids at Chapter 3.

40 Responses to:
"The Consequence of Using Consequences"

  1. Emma

    I like your suggestions. Another idea is to say, “Can you keep yourself off the trampoline while Joshua is on it, or do you need my help?” If he tries to get onto the trampoline, physically help him stay off it, empathizing with his frustration at having to wait if he melts down. This protects Joshua’s (and his) safety and respects the boundary set by the gym without resorting to punishment. It can also be combined with some form of redirection if necessary.

  2. Valorie

    I’m pretty inclined to agree with just about every single thing you’ve said here, and I thank you so much for putting it so eloquently. I’m glad I’m not the only one who does it this way!

    The only thing I might argue with is your terminology. I see consequences as being something related to the offense; if you try to touch the hot pan again, you’ll have to wait in the other room because you’re too excited and I don’t want you to get hurt. It’s logical. What you were talking about, no applesauce, I see as really more of a punishment than anything else!

    Great blog. I loved it!

  3. Melodie   bfmom

    In your next life you should be a pre-school teacher Dionna!

  4. Terri Henry   onelovelivity

    Wow thanks lots of good ideas here. I can’t stand it when I hear consequences/threats come out of my mouth and am doing my best to catch them quick and turn it around.

  5. Terri Henry   onelovelivity

    oh and I LOVE that photo – it perfectly captures all the childhood fun of trampoline jumping!

  6. Daisy   TooTooDaisy

    Ahhh, this is the mom I always want to be, but lately I feel like I am hitting a big stumbling block trying to help my guy figure out how to handle anger/frustration. Whenever I go with 6 and/or 7 on your list, he seems to get pissed off even more. And I really AM trying to do this in a way that’s not patronizing but simply validating – because that one is a hot-button for me as well. I wish I knew how I was missing the mark.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Daisy – do you want to give a specific example? I’m happy to use your example as a post and ask for feedback. We usually get some good responses to those posts!

    • Amie @ Baby in Bliss   babyinbliss

      I have had that same thing happen, Daisy. Often I find when allying or feeling identification are not working, it’s because my daughter is not ready to move on from just simply having a feeling. Whether we are talking consequences, the dreaded punishments, or all the better (and usually more effective) alternatives like allying, we forget that sometimes our children just have to feel, and express that feeling safely. Just a thought with your little one next time. Be patient and give him time to be in his moment, then try again. @Dionna, I would love to open her post up to the rest of readers.

  7. Suchada @ Mama Eve   mamaevetweets

    We’ve moved away from punishment, too, Dionna! I was so surprised the other day when I realized it, because I’d been brought up believing punishment was of utmost importance for good behavior. I realized very quickly that it didn’t work for us, though. It didn’t change the behavior, and it was clearly damaging my relationship with my kids — to the point that my son would run away from me if he thought he did something “bad”, and that he was putting his toys in time out.

    I don’t make my son talk about feelings (but am always open to it if he wants to sit on my lap and tell me what’s going on), but I give him broad guidelines and let him monitor himself (“I’m not going to let you hit your brother with your truck, and if you can’t stop yourself, then you need to put your truck up”). And he does it. Sometimes now he’ll put a toy away if he feels himself getting upset and finds something else to play with that he can be calmer with. It’s been an amazing change in how my boys interact.

  8. Amy   Amy_willa

    Couldn’t agree more, Dionna! I remember being asked this question by a friend of mine . . . you know, the “if you don’t give consequences (we were talking about how I don’t use time outs) then how will your daughter learn that there are consequences for things in the world? How will she learn right and wrong?” i mean, my friend was totally consternated and concerned that Abbey would have a really hard time at school in the future – she was so confused about my way of guidance as opposed to discipline in the “traditional” sense.

    But it works. Guidance works better than any disciplinary action. Having compassion and empathy for your child’s feelings, and helping them to understand those feelings and have compassion and empathy for others . . . it alleviates a lot of the frustration that causes unwanted behaviors in the first place.

    I love when you talk about identifying the NEED behind the behavior. That really is the key. If you can help your child to tell you what is bothering him/her, not only will you be able to help him/her stop the unwanted behavior, but you’re teaching him/her to be aware of his/her feelings and needs – which leads to more independence, less frustration, and more compassion for others as well.

  9. Leigh Ann

    I just have a question, when you say “if you do this, I will be happy” or conversely “if you do this, I will be sad”, aren’t you in effect manipulating the child with your emotions, making them responsible for how you feel? Isn’t it still an external thing? I ask this because as an adult now, I still find myself controlled so much by how my actions will make my parents feel, and I don’t want to pass that on to my kids.
    Thanks so much and for the post. I am trying to learn as much as I can.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      I think you’re referring to the second footnote, yes? That was a follow-up comment from the same reader, it’s not something that I wrote.

      I definitely don’t want Kieran to feel like he is responsible for my emotions, so I don’t do the “if you do this I’ll be happy” bit (at least, I don’t recall doing it). I have said on more than one occasion “when you do X, it makes mama’s job harder. It would be easier for me if you would do Y.” (Maybe not in those exact words, but you get my drift?) But I feel like that’s part of letting him know how everyone’s actions affect everyone else, how we can work together as a family.

      • Leigh Ann

        Yes, it was the second footnote. Sorry I was unclear. Thanks for your answer. I like the “it makes my job harder” bit. It takes away the emotional punch.

  10. Lori Petro   TEACHthruLove

    Of course I LOVE this post!

    Lori
    TEACH through Love

  11. I so appreciate your reminders of how I really want to interact with our daughter. I’ll have to remember to reference this the next time I’m trying to explain it to my husband.

  12. I agree with you..as a play therapist we do similar limit settings. We acknowledge their feelings/wishes like: I can see how angry you are and really want to paint that wall. Then we set a limit, WITHOUT using the word NO- like “But that wall is not for painting on” and then we give a redirection, something that fits the crime like “if you want to paint on something, you can paint on paper here”.
    and yes, we need to figure out why- are they tired, hungry, etc? ANd I also agree not to get mad at them for food like in the applesauce example..don’t use rewards and punishments related to food. In a nutshell, treat them as we would want to be talked to and treated- empathy and compassion.

  13. I’m good at explaining natural consequences, and I can also usually remember to help my daughter think of options. In fact, a recent favorite thing of hers to say is “That’s an option!” when she suggests something.
    My downfall is usually when she starts throwing things, which doesn’t happen very often. I asked her to pick up a book she threw last week, and when she refused I asked if I should give it away. She said yes, and I immediately regretted it because I liked that book. It didn’t really seem right to then try and convince her to keep it. Instead we gave it to a friend who shares a name with the title character.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      That seems like an example of “powering over” her (as the RPRK authors would say) – “if you don’t do this, then I’m doing that.” She must have been needing to exert her own power (hence the throwing of the book, something it’s obvious you don’t like), and when you gave her the choice, she exerted even more power by saying “give it away.”

      Shannon – any chance I could turn that example into a post? Maybe have people brainstorm what we could do instead in that situation (and believe me, I understand the frustration – for me it’s not so much the throwing, but the refusing to pick up. Usually my frustration stems from the fact that I want things picked up on MY terms – there’s no show of cooperation from ME.)

    • My now five-year old does that too. We’ve donated a bunch of toys that he refused to clean up so I’ve had to take that option off the table. It seemed like such a natural consequence but the more I’m learning the more I realize it’s not a helpful response. I’m still stuck on what to do instead though… Am reading Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids but it’s slow going for me.

  14. Mhegan

    This post was a gem in so many ways. It really speaks to what Marshall Rosenburg shares in Nonviolent Communication, and that is when someone (child or adult) is doing something you don’t want them to do, and you want them to do something different, there are two vital questions to ask yourself:

    What is it I want this person to do?
    And MUCH more importantly,
    What do I want their REASON or motivation to be for doing it?

    Any time we do anything, we are doing it either from intrinsic or extrinsic motivation. The key is this: actions that come from intrinsic motivation (meaning ones that we choose ourselves because we value the reasons WHY we are doing them and the needs they are meeting) are going to be authentic, proactive, empowered and sustainable and joy-filled.

    Example: I model brushing my teeth regularly and talk about how good it feels and how important it is to keep bacteria from building up on our teeth and gums (insert biology lesson where child is interested – and they usually ARE!). I request my kids brush daily as well. I empathize with them if they don’t like the toothpaste or find the brush too big or small, or need help getting the back teeth or feel too tired or WHATEVER the reason is they may be resisting; and we work out solutions together…. The result? My kids brush their teeth willingly without fail and without nagging or complaining each morning and night because they care about their teeth and it feels good to have healthy teeth and we can make it work together.

    Actions motivated extrinsically (meaning actions based on fear of consequences, rejection, shaming, disapproval, or done out of duty, obligation or guilt or “shoulding” or “have to” energy) are not going to be done joyfully, will not be sustainable and will likely be done with resentment and disconnection from self and others.

    Example: I’ve told my kid they “have to” brush their teeth because I said so, I haven’t listened to their reasoning why they don’t want to, haven’t offered empathy or solutions to make it easier: “Mom is nagging me to brush my teeth AGAIN! I hate brushing my teeth! It’s so stupid and boring! Maybe I can just wet my toothbrush and it will look like I did it…”

    Thanks for this great post!

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Thanks so much for bringing those NVC concepts into the conversation and explaining them so clearly – that was practically a post itself :)

      • Mhegan

        You’re welcome! As I read over it, of course I see where it can go even deeper…

        I love these conversations!

  15. mamapoekie   mamapoekie

    nice one.. will be using in next week’s sunday SUrf

  16. Melissa @ The New Mommy Files   vibreantwanderer

    Wonderful post, Dionna. I definitely agree with most everything you’ve said. I do think it’s important to help children see the natural (as in not imposed by us) consequences of their actions. If you touch the pot, you will get a burn, for example, but inventing consequences for behavior we don’t like certainly does little to help children understand. Thanks for your insight!

  17. Krista   krissyfair

    Great post. I think people get consequences and punishments confused a lot. To me the consequence is the natural consequence. And that’s a really important lesson. And I also think it’s important to explain to the kid what the outcome will be because that’s not something they can always sort out for themselves, but that’s not necessarily a threat.

    As an easy example, when we make a mess, we have to clean it up. That’s just the way the world works. I don’t have to threaten anything, but I will point that out ahead of time “Wow it looks like you’re having fun pouring the flour on the kitchen floor. Remember though, we’ll have to clean that up when we’re done.” He can choose to keep going or to stop at that point. Then we clean it up and next time he can decide if the fun of making the mess is worth the clean-up.

  18. Amber   AmberStrocel

    I think this changes as children get older. I have a 2 1/2 year old and a 6 year old, and my expectations and focus are different for each of them. With my 2 1/2 year old, it is much more about trying to meet his needs and create a world that he can inhabit without constant intervention from me. With my 6 year old, there is a greater focus on behaviours. Because, at her age, she’s old enough to understand that there are certain standards she’s expected to conform to.

    The trampoline would be a good example. A toddler wouldn’t understand the rules, and couldn’t be expected to control their impulses. A 6 year old could, to a much greater degree. And so, I would have higher expectations of the older child, and react differently when the rules were broken.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with consequences that follow naturally from a behaviour and are age-appropriate. But it’s the “follow naturally” and “age-appropriate” bits that are tricky. And so I tend to be much more lenient than many other parents, because I don’t want to be arbitrary about how I react to my children’s perceived misbehaviours.

  19. Sara   FamilyOrganic

    I both agree and disagree with this. Certainly it’s ideal to look to a child’s needs instead of his/her actions. I do think that when you have 2 or more young children, it’s much harder to put into practice. We have issues with one twin stealing every.single.thing that the other is playing with. So either I let one twin get bullied, or I stop the first from stealing the toys. I start with explaining, “Sissy is playing with that right now, I know it looks like fun, but you need to wait until she’s done with it” (or your turn, depending on the situation). When one child’s needs are in direct opposition to the other’s needs, it’s difficult to cater to both of their needs effectively. Generally my son proceeds to either throw a tantrum OR push his sister down and take the toy. So yes, I know he WANTS the toy, but he really can’t keep pushing his sister around. He gets a gentle time-out. He stops the behavior (at least for a while). So yes, he might be doing for external reasons now, but in order to be fair to my girl, he just has to stop. Whether his motivation is internal or external is not the primary issue.

    • Mhegan

      Hi Sara, I feel moved to share an insight when I read your quandary:

      “When one child’s needs are in direct opposition to the other’s needs, it’s difficult to cater to both of their needs effectively…”

      I wonder if it would be helpful to you to consider that perspective that it’s the strategy desired (having a specific toy at a specific moment – usually “NOW!”) of the children that are in rather than their needs?

      If you can see the difference between needs and wants, it will make a world of difference in how you view, process and respond to any situation. Yes, the child wants the toy and it’s being used right now. But what needs is the child having that can be met in another way? Fun? Play? Exploration? Inclusion? Creative expression? Once you can see the needs behind the wants, it’s easier to find another way to meet them, while empathizing with the disappointment triggered by an unmet “want”.

      Protective (rather than punitive) use of force is important in any situation where a child is in danger of being hurt, so stepping in between sometimes where there are strong feelings and possibly physical violence is, by all means, valid and necessary! But as soon as it moves into punitive use of force, as in “time outs” or taking away toys or loved activities, the child will learn a very negative lesson: “I can’t see any other way to get my needs met aside from pushing and hitting, and those that are meant to be helping me are punishing me instead.” It’s never too early (or too late) to start modeling how to creative problem solve and work out issues together; and time outs will only result in a missed opportunity to do so and less and less motivation on the child’s part to do so as they mature.

      I agree with you, with multiple children it takes more of everything: attention, patience, communication, time, energy, support….. I can really empathize with that, being a mother of 4 myself. We are not superhuman and likely are dealing with old patterns creeping in daily… All we can do is aim for the target and hope we hit it as best as we can. It’s so, so worth it.

      I hope that helps even a smidgen. Take care.
      Mhegan

  20. Mhegan

    Typo: That was supposed to read:

    “I wonder if it would be helpful to you to consider the perspective that it’s the strategy desired (having the toy) of the children that is in conflict, rather than their needs being in conflict?”

    Sorry, multitasking!

  21. Sara   FamilyOrganic

    Meghan,
    That makes a lot of sense, and it is helpful. I do tend to get bogged down in the immediate issue rather than the bigger picture. I do my best to meet both of their needs for time and attention. I don’t think I achieve that goal on most days. There isn’t enough of me to go around, hubby doesn’t get home until late most nights, and we have no family in the area (we are military). I do have some friends and other moms for support, but nothing is supportive like family. Honestly, I’m still struggling with convincing my hubby that spanking is unnecessary (and abusive). We’re all at different places in our parenting walk and we all do our best. I just don’t think that time-outs are going to permanently damage my kids in any way.

  22. Annicles   IamAnnicles

    It most certainly does become a whole different kettle of fish as children get older. Mine are 10,8 and 6 years old. All of them are old enough to know the the saucepan is hot or the toy belongs to another child.

    I think that I have two types of behaviour that look “naughty” and they require very different approaches.

    The first are things like lying, cheating at games, saying mean things, taking another child’s possession and hiding it. These are usually done on the spur of the moment and are a reaction to something that has just happened or happened recently. This type of behaviour is pretty easy to deal with. I tend to try (TRY!) to take a step back and a deep breath and find out what has been going on inside the mind of the child to cause them to do this action. My children know right from wrong, yet sometimes something impells them to do something that we all know is not a good thing to do. This step can take a long time to work through – even a few weeks. t is impossible to force a child to tell you something they want to keep secret so patience and an obviously (to the child) open mind is the key. Once the child has talked about what was going on I often find there was a bigger picture that I knew nothing about. We usually find a solution together. For instance, once my son stole and ate all my daughter’s christmas chocolate and wouldn’t confess. Eventally I found the wrappers stashed under his bed and he admitted it was him. He decided that the fair thing to do would be to buy her somethiing that cost the same as the chocolate. She agreed to this solution. He laso had to apologise. I was pretty sure it was him all along but it was better to let it come out naturally, as he was absolutley refusing to own up. He also said he wouldn’t do that again because he felt awful fo the whole of the christmas holiday and wanted to own up but had backed himself into a corner. Hopefully that was a valuable lesson in itself. No extra blame or shame was added or was necessary.

    The second type of situation is harder. This seems to happen during either “special treats” or particularly important and unavoidable events. For instance, sitting in the audience at a concert and getting bored. My answer to that is, tough luck. Learning to sit still, at the age of 10, for half an hour is neither unkind nor uneccessary. It would seriously spoil the enjoyment of the surrounding audience to have a loud, wriggly child or to walk out half way through a symphony. My daughter was in this situation last night and she was able to think about something she found interesting and lasted the rest of the concert.

    A different example, one that we are still struggling with, is Hebrew lessons. My son loves them and talks about them during the fortnight between lessons but struggles with behaving acceptably during them. He gets silly and argues with the Rabbi. As these lessons are given for free and we travel a long way for them it is a problem. We are working on ways to make it easier but the bottom line is – he has to behave acceptably and at 8 years old it should be possible.

    Behaviour in public is such a different kettle of fish to behaviour at home. It is where I have a zero tolerance attitude (in my head) but where we have no-where to go physically to talk through problems and no time (in a lesson). We have to have talked through things before we get there and sorted out strategies and things that help. We also find that explaining how we expect them to behave and why helps them to keep it together.

    Sorry this is so long. I hope it is helpful to see how things change as children get older! I do not claim to be perfect….

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Thanks so much for your response! I really enjoy hearing from parents of older kids, it helps to know what I can look forward to ;) WRT the Hebrew lessons – obviously I don’t know how your son is arguing, but you might enjoy this article: http://wondertime.go.com/parent-to-parent/article/why-kids-should-talk-back_2.html (Small comfort maybe :))

      • Annicles   IamAnnicles

        That is a very cool article. I had a chat with the boy before I read it and can now identify what his responses were! Turns out, he’s a good arguer. I think the key is it has to be ongoing communication. It takes time for children to work out their feelings and thoughts and as they get older it becomes more complicated. Thanls for the link.

  23. Denise

    I posted on (the other person’s) blog. Have no idea if she will let the comment go through. Her words don’t match her actions. You may want to take a look at the You Tube video before she has the person take it down.

    My comment to her:

    With that said, let’s count how many times you told (your son) no, and then ended up going up to your kids to fix the problem yourself. He’s ten years old and he still doesn’t stop when you tell him to. Don’t judge other people’s parenting until you can get yours right.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Denise – thank you so much for your comment. I wanted to let you know I edited the other blogger’s name out and removed the YouTube link.

      I just do not have the time or energy to get into a meaningless flame war with the other blogger. To all of the readers of the other site – welcome! If you would like a more peaceful environment, feel free to stick around. I try very hard not to judge others, and I ask for people to be respectful to each other in my commenting threads and on my Facebook page.

  24. Renee

    My first visit to your blog. You’re obviously a very involved mama and love your son very much. That comes through in this post and other things that you write. However, it makes me laugh a bit when you call it “natural parenting,” which seems to imply that parents who do things differently are behaving “unnaturally.” You are certainly entitled to your opinion and approach, and it may indeed work well for you and your child. But, your opinion is just that – an opinion. Other mothers and fathers can and do have very valid approaches that differ from yours. I think you may also find your opinion may shift if you have more than 1 child or even as Kieran gets older. There isn’t one way to parent, just as there is not one way to live. Plus, different things work for different children. I have 3 kids – 6.5, 4 and 1.5 – and find myself fine-tuning my approach with each of them. I’m not trying to say that I disagree with everything you’ve written – I do not, in fact, but I think it is only one possible way to do things. And it’s not necessarily “natural.” Also, as a professional, I can tell you that, I see many new hires out of university at my office who could have done with a little bit less child-led parenting and a bit more understanding that they are not the center of the universe and, yes, sometimes, you can’t do things JUST BECAUSE it bothers other people, even if the motivation is not internal. So, I won’t be raising my children the way you’ve expressed here, and, so far, they are turning out pretty well. But I wish you luck with your way. At the very least, I hope we can respect each other’s differences and enjoy our own, unique methods of parenting.
    (As to your specific example of the trampoline incident, here’s what I would have said: K and J – you guys seem to really love the trampoline, and sometimes it’s hard to share something you love. This place has a rule of only one child at a time on the trampoline. If we can’t follow the rules, we’re unfortunately going to have to go home. I hope that won’t happen b/c I’m having fun here too”)

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Hi Renee! Thank you for visiting and for commenting.
      re: “natural” parenting – I didn’t come up with the phrase, it’s a whole philosophy of parenting and living that many people adhere to, you can read more about it here if you’re interested: http://naturalparentsnetwork.com/what-is-np/
      And I’m sure I will think many different things when I have older/more kids – that’s the beautiful thing about life, we all keep growing and changing and learning. I do hope that I will always want to respect my family members, as they are worthy of love and respect.
      I agree – my opinion is my opinion. I try very hard not to foist my opinion on others or judge those who don’t parent the way I do. I use this space to explain my parenting goals, and I welcome other parents – both those who agree, and those who disagree (as long as they disagree respectfully).
      Thank you for your input, I appreciate it.

      • Renee

        You’re welcome, and thank you for your quick response! (It’s always more fun when the blogger responds!) I think we are saying the same thing, in that we need to try to respect other parents who are doing their best. Obviously, when you choose to do things one way and I choose another way, we are inherently judging our way to be better. But, I always try to remember that every parent and every child is different, and there are lots of ways to get to the same place. As to the term “natural parenting,” I know that you didn’t coin the term. My point was simply that I find it to be mildly/humourously offensive/judgemental, in the way that I’ve described above. I don’t like it when my kids sleep in the bed with me and my husband (which they do sometimes anyway), but that doesn’t mean I’m unnatural. I also circumcised my sons – and I stand by that decision as well. However, I feel very strongly about feeding my family organics and not using baby care products with parabens or pthalates. So who is to say that one way is natural and another is not?

      • Dionna   CodeNameMama

        If there’s a family that adheres to every single tenet of NP, find them for me so I can shake their collective hand ;) I certainly don’t – and one thing Lauren and I agreed on when creating NPN was that we didn’t want any parent to feel uncomfortable because they like A and B but don’t agree with C and D. I believe that it’s possible to respectfully disagree – no judgments, no name-calling, just people talking about the pros and cons, because there are ALWAYS pros and cons to every parenting choice. And it’s slightly humorous that you find “NP” to be mildly offensive/judgmental, but so many of the “NP” choices are so outside the norm that most people would call them UNnatural! It’s all in one’s perception.

        Thank you for the reply – it’s definitely more fun when I can talk to (even disagree with!) someone and feel like we came out of it with more understanding of each other :)

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