The Show & T.E.L.L. Blog shares ideas about interacting with children. The TELL Our Children mission is to inspire and mentor caregivers to understand how every interaction can teach children ideas, encourage some ideas more than others, and how to listen better so you are better able to build the thinking in a child. You must first hear what ideas a child currently has in order to offer better ideas. And, finally every interaction is done with love. In upcoming blogs, I will speak in more depth about teaching, encouraging, listening, and loving while interacting. Today, I wish to continue with the idea of consequences. Last post, I introduced the thought:
Interact with consequences in mind. Proper consequences can make the interaction more real for the child. Choose consequences the child understands so the child is better able to choose beneficial behaviors over limiting ones.
You can click on the title to link to this post. These posts are part of the “How can I T.E.L.L.?” series which started in May.
We T.E.L.L. a child so we can help develop a child’s thought system. Thinking about and including consequences in our interactions is a concrete way to help children connect ideas. A child can relate a certain situation to something positive, or something negative, and this can help the child understand and make a better decision.
Can you think of areas in your life where you choose because of the consequences? For example, you may avoid drugs because the negative consequences. The positive consequences are also obvious. Or you may relate improvement to success, which causes you to keep learning.
As children gain life experiences, they are learning about the consequences explicitly and implicitly. We can explicitly use consequences to help shape a child’s choices. Many have asked specifically about disciplining a child, usually in reference to a punishment. When a child misbehaves, explicit consequences can help shape the child’s choices. The question discussed last post is relevant here: what is in it for the child?
When my children were young and I felt a time out was needed (usually for both of us!), I would often ask after the time was up, “Do you know why you were in time out?” I wanted to be sure my child connected the time out with a specific situation. Then, I may ask “Should we try again?” to give my child a chance to do better. Then I could point out how nice, or job well done. They key is to link not just negative consequences (avoiding time out), but also the benefits of choosing better.
As children get older, you can ask them to think about the positive and negative consequences for a specific behavior. For example, in the past I have asked students to write down 10 things answering, “If I continue to miss class and not put forth effort, then…” The list usually includes ideas associated with bad grades, not being ready for next class, not ready for college, just to name a few. After talking about the negative consequences, I shift the conversation and ask something such as, “Now what if you start coming to class and put forth effort, what could happen then?”
This gave students freedom to consciously choose. In the end, I could say something like, “Now you know what can happen positively and negatively here; it’s your choice. I will continue to encourage you to make the better choice, but ultimately it’s up to you. Let me know how I can help you choose better.”
To discipline a child in a T.E.L.L.ing way, we think most about disciplining the mind in a beneficial way. A disciplined mind allows for better choices. When you T.E.L.L., you build a child’s thinking. You don’t force the child to think a certain way; he learns to think for himself. He learns to recognize positive and negative consequences.
Think about the consequences you use to shape your child’s thinking. What is your tendency? Do you point out positive consequences as well as negative ones? Do you help connect beneficial behaviors with positive rewards? Make a point of finding opportunities to connect positive behaviors with beneficial consequences.
If you find you have to redirect a child’s behavior, consider using the time out strategy mentioned above, or if you have an older child, use the make a list of consequences strategy. Another form of the time out strategy is to ask the child to write a letter about what happened and what may need to be thought about next time.
Raising a child is a wondrous journey. Helping children learn about consequences, positive and negative, gives them a concrete stepping stone to grow toward something better.