Discipline and Consequences
Discipline is when we as parents apply punishment in order to gain control of situation, influence behavior, shape someones future actions or enforce obedience to a system of rules.
Consequences are outcomes that can be either negative or positive resulting from a person’s action. An average person, by nature will naturally strive towards positive outcomes. We tend to gauge our behavior based on the positive or negative outcomes we experience. When disciplining teenagers, experts will point out two types of consequences to focus on: natural and logical. Both types can be positive or negative.
A quick look into each:
Natural consequences obviously occur . . . uh, naturally. In other words, they are consequences that are not created or manipulated by anyone. For example, if you are careless with a hammer and you hit your thumb, it will hurt, possibly swell and turn blue. If on the other hand, you plant a tulip seed, nurture it with water and sunlight, you will naturally observe the blooming of a beautiful flower.
Logical consequences, on the other hand are situations created by someone in a position of authority and are logically connected to the wrong. We think of it as logical because it fits or matches the outlined offense. For example, if your teen does not clean up their bedroom, he/she will not be allowed to go with friends Friday night. On the other hand, if he/she finishes raking the yard by Friday, use of the family car will be provided for a weekend outing.
We want our children to learn from their mistakes, but we have the choice of allowing our children to face natural consequences or impose logical ones. But how do you choose between the two types of consequences? When is one more effective than the other?
When natural consequences are immediate they are the most effective. Too often though, natural consequences are not immediate or either they are too dangerous to allow. For example, texting while driving could produce serious consequences. Not wearing a seat belt when driving may or may not result in a less immediate natural consequence. Both are important but pose a decision for parents. In both, natural consequences aren’t what a parent should use to teach their teen the responsibility of their own safety and it is up to the parents to sort out a logical consequence that will promote the desired behavior – in this instance not running into the street without looking or wearing a seatbelt.
Another instance of when logical consequences will be more effective than natural consequences is while your teen is getting a high school education. The benefits of good grades in school are so far off into the future that teens do not fully comprehend them. While your teen can repeat what he/she has been told: ‘good grades will get you into a good college and you’ll make more money’, until he/she sees the type of job or paycheck a college education can get, he/she will not understand the difference. Logical consequences, including rewards for good grades and privileges taken for poor grades work best as your teen can fully understand these.
There are times when the natural consequence is the better choice for the parent to make. One excellent example is when your teen is dating or making friends. Finding out what type of person your teen wants to be with and how your teen wants to be treated is going to be his/her choice. Dating or making friends with someone who isn’t his/her type is going to show that to him/her. Barring any mistreatment from a friend or a date, parents will need to hold their tongue and refrain from giving their opinions in order to let the natural consequences – positive or negative – happen.
Discipline choices are never easy. Hopefully knowing the difference between natural and logical consequences will help you make the right choices for you and your teen.