Let Consequences Teach Your Children the Lessons of Life

“Whatsoever a man soweth, that will he also reap”. Galatians 6:7 

Whatever children sow, children should also reap – unless their parents jump in there and spoil the lesson. We in America are robbing our children by protecting them from the consequences of their acts and by meeting all of their needs without any struggle on their part.  Parents must help them compete and overcome, but must never shield and protect their children from the storms that are sure to come their way –many of which they cause themselves. We must let them reap much of what they have sowed.

In a “Love and Logic” workshop, Jim Fay made this statement that has stuck with me; “There are lessons to be learned in life and the younger we learn them—the cheaper the price.”  The price we pay for being tardy to school is much cheaper than the price we pay for being tardy to an important meeting as an adult.

As a principal, I have read many excuses parents wrote to excuse their children from the ‘wrath’ of the school. “Please excuse Johnny for being late, he overslept this morning – it was my fault.” But, can you now see this same young man presenting a note to the airline that will cover being late for a flight at the airport?

I remember coming back from a trip with a layover in Houston. I got tired of sitting and started to walk around and then went to the restroom. When I got back to the gate, I saw my wife frantically jumping up and down and waving her arms. I ran, but the door closed. The plane had not left the gate, but they refused to let us on. It cost us one hundred and fifty dollars to lay down in a six-foot cubicle, on a hard bench for the night. They let me know that I might not even get on the next flight in the morning. Oh, I wished I had a note from my Mother.

I have had mothers run into my school with a lunch sack and tell me the child left it on the kitchen table. Would it not be better if the child had to go without lunch that day? I guarantee he would not starve, but he might learn to remember his lunch.

Mothers complain that their teens will not pick up their dirty clothes and put them in the clothes hamper. What would happen if mother only washed what was in the hamper – without arguing and begging? Do you think the teen might learn something?

Reaping what one sows can be a powerful training tool.  For a child to benefit from his actions, good or bad, a parent must allow the child to experience the consequences of his actions. It is these consequences that teach many of the hard lessons of life. As much as is possible, let the natural results just happen.

Natural Consequences.
The above are examples of a natural consequence. Another natural consequence for a teenager would be to receive a lower grade when he does not hand in one of his assignments. A natural consequence for a child would be that when he leaves his bike out on the front lawn and someone steals it, he goes without his bike. A spiritual natural consequence would be, “Your sins have separated you from your God.”

Natural consequences are very effective. They do not have to be communicated, they just happen. You as a parent must let it happen. You must not step in and interfere. You must not rescue the child. You are just sympathetic. You do not buy him another bike, you provide work so he can earn another.

Logical Consequences
We as parents cannot live with many of the natural consequences of a child’s actions, so we have to impose another form of ‘Consequence’ called discipline. For example, we cannot allow our children to reap the results of running out in front of trucks. To be fair, logical consequences should be communicated before the infraction and action taken after.

Here are some rules for rules:

  1. Consequences should closely match the rule and should have a logical connection. For example: If a child will not eat his dinner – He gets no snacks until the next scheduled meal. You need to warn the child,
  2. Consequences should really matter to the child.
  3. Consequences should be enforced in such a manner that both the parent and the child can live with them. We do not harm our children physically or emotionally. Spanking will not harm, but rather help your child.
  4. Consequences should happen as soon as possible after the infraction. You the parent must follow through, with self-control.
  5. Consequences do not have to be harsh or unique. They do not need to get harsher.
  6. Consequences have to be sure and consistent.
  7. Consequences should be communicated. Sometimes your child will do something you did not foresee; in this case, make sure the consequence is as natural and as logical as possible.

I know of a case where a child stole an item from a store. It was very wrong and it also embarrassed the parents. There was a temptation to take the item away and threaten the child as to what would happen next time. NO! Something must happen this time! I would recommend that the child should take the item back to the store and face the manager -and then apologize. The child should not only apologize for stealing it, but then pay for it with money the parent loaned him. The parent should then provide work so that the child can pay back the money loaned him.

If a child has to make restitution and face the results of his actions immediately, rarely will he ever repeat them. We all make mistakes, even our children, but parents never should cover or make excuses for them.  Hand them a rag and expect them to clean up their mess.

Never threaten. Promise, and always keep you promise. This is true communication. This is true discipline. This is true love.

“There are lessons to be learned in life and the younger we learn them—the cheaper the price.” Jim Fay


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