Ella and Mommy – circa 2009
When my children were much younger, I read three different parenting books… 1 2 3 Magic, On Becoming Toddlerwise ~ Parenting Your 18-24 Month Old, and Parenting with Love and Logic.
While I felt the most connection with 1 2 3 Magic and have used many of the philosophies successfully with my own children, I kept some interesting ideas in the back of my mind from Parenting with Love and Logic. A few weeks ago, I implemented one of its methods… Natural Consequences.
To paraphrase from their website:
Often, parenting advice is given in order to strive to keep children comfortable and foster high-self esteem through mere praise. However, it has been found that confidence is born out of struggle and achievement, not simply through external praise. It is important to allow children the opportunities to approach situations independently in order to give them the freedom to learn how to tackle their own problems under the care of an adult.
In the Love and Logic philosophy, a child will regard their parents as “good” and their own poor decisions as “bad”. Not only will a child learn to expect natural negative consequence from negative behavior, they will have created an inner strength to stand against peer pressure.
Here is the recent dilemma in which I used the Natural Consequence method of discipline:
My kids (ages 6 1/2 and 8) have been expected (by us, their parents) to do more independently. They are capable and we want them to learn age-appropriate responsibility. In the morning before school they dress themselves, fix their breakfast, eat, and get ready to leave in a timely manner. At least that is what is expected, and overall they are pretty good about it. At this point, I give gentle reminders to get moving, and I pack their lunches and folders in their backpacks, or instruct them to do so if time permits. I also drive, bike, or walk them to school.
One particular morning Ella was moving slow after she got dressed. I reminded her to make sure to eat soon before it was time to leave. I came downstairs to find her lounging in a chair reading a book. I assumed she already ate breakfast as she had plenty of time to do so since I reminded her. I told her it was time to get her shoes and coat on to leave.
She informed me that she hadn’t eaten yet.
I told her that this one time I would give her money to get breakfast at school, but I would not do this again. And I meant it. I put $1.50 worth quarters in an envelope (I didn’t have a one dollar bill on me), sealed it and suggested she put it in her backpack so it wouldn’t get lost.
Next, I asked the kids to go outside and get in the car - I’d be there in a few seconds. When I went outside, Ella was playing around in the yard. I reminded her that I had told her to get in the car and asked why was she in the yard? She replied with an “I don’t know” and a desperate remark that she had dropped her quarters. When I told her to go pick them up, she went back into the yard and started searching in the grass. I then told her “Oh, no, we don’t have time to look in the grass, it’s time to go.” In the car I told her that I was sorry that she couldn’t have breakfast that day, but she had made a couple of bad decisions.
It killed me that she was going without breakfast. No breakfast is just not healthy and makes for a cranky, poorly functioning child. And I did feel worried, sad and guilty. But I kept telling myself that this, more than anything, would be an unforgettable lesson and I bet she would be much more cognizant of her time in the mornings from then on.
I told her teacher about this incident (apologizing in case Ella was a bear that morning – which apparently she wasn’t) and she actually praised me saying she wished she’d used such methods earlier with her high schooler who does not feel a healthy sense of self-responsibility.
I talked later with Ella to remind her that she wasn’t stupid (as she seemed to feel she was) but rather that she made some bad choices and that she was free to make better choices. She hasn’t missed breakfast since.
Though parenting can be painful at times, I know that if we are purposeful about what we do, it is good for our children in the end. No one will ever be a perfect parent, but at least we can try to do our best along this journey!
1 2 3 Magic – by Thomas W. Phelan
On Becoming Toddlerwise ~ Parenting Your 18-24 Month Old – by Gary Ezzo, Robert Bucknam
Parenting with Love and Logic – by Foster Cline, Jim Fay