No Consequences?

Recently Dr. Charles Fay spoke at a seminar in the Northwest where a parent expressed concern over a therapist’s advice. Their daughter had been caught texting nude pictures of herself to her boyfriend and the parents had applied the Love and Logic principle of empathy driven consequences by taking her phone. The daughter’s therapist reportedly objected to the consequence because it was too upsetting to the child.

In the author’s own voice…

Upsetting? How about the nude picture? How might the boy’s parents react to a girl they don’t know sending nude pictures to their son? Dr. Fay’s recent blog reported seeing a trend these days that shows greater concern about the harm that consequences can bring on a child than the behaviors that call for these consequences.

Our world is full of consequences. Build a home on an island where hurricanes regularly travel and you could lose everything you built. Drive a car fast on wet pavement and you could fail to negotiate the curve in the road and crash into a tree. Watch television instead of doing your homework and you could remain in the same grade again next year.

Parents cannot program a world where consequences do not exist. I realize many have tried. Parents have insisted that teachers change a grade to reflect what their busy little darling deserved in the name of preparing to be accepted into the right university. Coaches have been educated by many a parent who knew the sport better than they did—at least where their little budding star athlete was concerned.

We often try to get out of consequences by explaining how the error occurred. I just looked down for a moment…I was talking on the phone when I got out of the car…I didn’t mean to crash the car or leave a toddler in the back seat! It wasn’t my fault so there shouldn’t be a consequence!! Really?

If you have decided to reject the “no consequences” approach to parenting, what can you do to ensure that consequences lower the harshness and still provide the lesson that benefits your child in the long run?

The Love and Logic way of allowing reality to teach our children while buffering their feelings with empathy and reassuring them of our love protects our children, the children they can sometimes hurt and a future world where people find boundaries all around them. Allowing these consequences to occur from a very young age ensures that the price tag for these early mistakes remains low. Removing all consequences throughout childhood and sending our unprotected children to school or even to college will only destroy their delicate little souls with the harshness of a world that refuses to cooperate with our permissive parenting.

In personal fitness and all other aspects of human development, the slogan “No pain; no gain” produces healthier bodies, stronger athletes, and intelligent students. We must be willing to pay the price of growth and accept the consequences of mistakes. That is the reality our children will face.

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