All posts tagged Natural Consequences

Podcast: Natural Consequences

natural consequencesIn this conversation with Vicki Hoefle, we talk about natural consequences.

The purpose of using natural consequences is to encourage children to make responsible decisions, not to force their submission. When a child makes a poor decision and the parents stay out of it, the child learns from the consequence, gains new information, and is in a position to choose differently the next time.

Listen in and let us know how natural consequences have been your child’s best teacher.

Using Natural Consequences…

natural consequences To Teach Life Lessons

Parents often say, I understand what natural consequences are (by definition), but it’s unclear how to use them as a parenting strategy.

Let’s start here: The Definition of Natural Consequences:

Natural Consequences are the natural responses to a child’s choice with NO parental involvement.

What Natural Consequences Look Like:

Natural consequences can be feedback of any kind (positive or negative) from the environment, peers, learning materials, physical activities, etc. These can be anything from physical discomforts to challenging situations to problematic scenarios to surprise outcomes that naturally steer a child toward making more informed choices and identifying personal preferences.

What is the Purpose in Allowing for Natural Consequences? 

The ultimate purpose is to encourage children to make choices/decisions (responsible or not) without forcing, guiding, steering, correcting, influencing or coaxing a child into submission. When a child makes a poor decision (and the parents stay out of it), the child has the OPPORTUNITY to learn from the consequence, gain new information and is in a position to choose differently the next time. Likewise, when they make choices that work for them, they are in a position to learn and to make the same choice again.

natural consequences

The Outcome:

Children practice and become efficient at assessing situations, making choices, learning through the consequence, reevaluating, planning for the next time and ultimately, making choices that move them closer to their goals in life.

The Barriers:

One of the biggest barriers is a parent who is unwilling to allow their children to experience the natural consequences of their choices because:

1. She is  worried what other people will think
2. He does not want his children to “feel bad,” or “be disappointed”
3. She believes it is HER job to make sure that her children are properly clothed, fed, prepared (school, sports, sleepovers, tests, homework, etc) and organized so they never forget anything.

If you are one of the parents caught behind such a barrier, I challenge you to evaluate this faulty belief system and recognize the effects this thinking can have on your child’s self esteem. Natural consequences build resiliency, confidence, decision-making skills and prepare children to handle what life throws their way.

A motto to keep in mind: Believe in your children before they believe in themselves.

The Benefits:

  • Long-term learning that leaves the child with a sense of fairness and empathy
  • Less fighting and power struggling
  • Meaningful discovery of how the world works and your child’s role in that world
  • A growing sense of confidence and self-assured-ness in your child with each challenge / achievement



Are you raising a bully? Part II

If you liked last week’s post from Annie Fox and were looking for some follow up solutions, check out Annie Fox’s second blog post My Child? A Bully? Part II. You will find 6 suggestions for addressing the bullying behavior.

Among them are a few of my recommendations as well.

At the top of the list is the Family Meeting. As the mother of 5 and part of a blended family with kids who have very strong personalities and a mother who is not opposed to using “power” to get her own way, our Family Meetings were a venue that held each and every one of us accountable for our behavior. My husband and I experienced the same consequences the kids did when we resorted to any bullying tactics to get our own way.

For those of you who know me, you will know that this didn’t happen often, but even I can be pushed into behaving in despicable ways. Luckily, we created a powerful tool for supporting each of us as we grew into our most respectful selves.

My second recommendation for addressing bullying behavior is to work with an outside source. Whether you see a parent coach, a traditional therapist or a member of the clergy, getting an outside perspective, having an impartial ear and a voice of reason will go a long way at “rebooting” your family and giving every member the skills they need to stay respectful and thoughtful with each other as well as everyone else in their lives.

“The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander” by Barbara Coloroso is still my hands down favorite book for truly learning about, understanding and then addressing the issue of bullying.

Over the years I have been asked repeatedly to address the subject of bullying and I have declined each and every time. Instead, I choose to focus on the task of teaching families how to create an atmosphere that is pro-active and provides opportunities for building strong relationships.

All of us at Parenting On Track™ encourage you to start creating this atmosphere of mutual respect, encouragement, contribution and cooperation right away. Don’t wait until you see the signs of bullying in your child. Don’t wait until you experience yourself (not parenting from your best) in your child’s behavior to do something differently. Build healthy relationships today and offer your children another way to “be” in relationship with themselves, their siblings, their friends, and the community at large. Click here and learn more about our multi-media home program now.

Kids Have Perfect Solutions

Okay, so here is a perfect example of how smart and quick kids are.

Kathy takes her 3 kids to the kiddie pool during her recent stay in Florida. Zack, a new walker, tries to follow his sisters into the center of the pool.

Unfortunately for Zack, he has only been on his feet for a few short weeks (still wobbly), the bottom of his little shoes are slippery and the kiddie pool has a decidedly deceptive slope “down” to the center.

Zack enters the pool to follow said sisters. His feet come out from under him and SMASH. Down on his ass he goes knocking his head on the bottom of the pool.

Mom walks over to the child on his ass. She didn’t run. She didn’t scream. She didn’t grab him up. Why? Because she knows her kid. The other parents in attendance jumped up to “assist” Zack, but Kathy used non-verbal tools to get all the busy bodies to sit down and mind their own business.

She holds Zack by the hand, lifts him up, puts him on his feet at the edge of the pool and sits back down.

Zack takes a few steps towards the center of the pool and SMACK. Down he goes again.

This happens approximately 6 times. No tears. Frustration to be sure, but Kathy is quickly by his side, Quick hug, quick smooch and off he goes again.

Until suddenly, left on his own to figure this problem out, this smart, clever, creative, determined young 14 month old figures out that he has to sit on his ass and scoot towards the center of the kiddie pool.

For the next 2 weeks, remembering what he learned all on his own, Zack enjoys the pool. In fact, he practiced every time they went to the pool and inevitably, some parent would approach Kathy and comment on how clever Zack was for scooting into the pool and asked her “so how long did it take you to teach him that?” To which she promptly broke out in gut busting laughter.

I asked her why the gut busting laughter – her reply “Can you just see me sitting MY ass down in the pee filled kiddie pool and teaching my kid to scoot down to the center? No way that was gonna happen.”

Here is what she knows, what I know and what the parents of the Parenting On Track family know:

Kids are their own best teachers and when parents provide opportunities to practice, well, kids find their own perfect solutions.

Way to go Zack!

Play Date Gone Awry

“How do you tell a mother that her kid is more than a handful and that you’d rather HALT all future play dates?!” (NYC Moms Blog).

playdate-gone-awryIt’s part of the parenting landscape, a dilemma most moms and dads face at some point in their parenting life. Play dates that turn into a nightmare. Sometimes that nightmare is the result of your child’s behavior, often times it’s the other child’s behavior, either way it ends badly. Parents feel stressed and frustrated. What’s worse is that sometimes a perfectly good friendship ends because – (HMMM, so why does a perfectly good friendship end?)

First of all, who ever heard of kids under the age of five knowing the first thing about play dates, the purpose of play dates, the rules of play dates, the expectations of play dates or anything else having to do with play dates. I have talked to enough parents after the fact to know that what most moms and dads wanted, was either

  • Time with another adult so that they kept their vocabulary at a 12th grade level (they are still paying off college loans that paid for that impressive vocabulary and no 2 year old is gonna steal it)
  • Time away from their kids so they can… name it. Life with small children is exhausting – emotionally, physically, spiritually, and intellectually. It’s smart to make time for yourself if you plan to go the distance from 0 to 18.

Now, it would be easy to blame the demise of a perfectly good friendship on the standard – “the kids just didn’t mesh”, but we all know there is more to it than that. What we do tend to do is start looking for advice AFTER the play-date for answers to, “Should I talk to my friend about their child?” or “How many times can I apologize before they stop inviting my child over to play?” or “What discipline strategy should I use to solve the problem the next time the child comes over?”

It seems to me, that this whole mess could be avoided if parents took the time to implement a few simple, proactive steps BEFORE the play date was even arranged.
For instance:

  • Identify the GOAL of the play date:

    Is it for adult company, or that much needed break?

    Or Is it to help teach kids how to interact socially and to adequately represent to the kids what they can expect from the outside world when they choose to hit, bite, scratch, pout, cry, scream, etc?

    Or is it to establish that play dates can be a great training ground for the next generation of community members and leaders?

  • Set clear expectations for reaching that GOAL.
  • Identify how you “discipline” each other’s kids and still respect each other’s different parenting styles.
  • Identify what you will you do to solve a problem between the children once it happens.
  • Identify what you will do if either of you decides that play dates just aren’t working

By having a conversation, creating a clear set of goals, and then coming to an agreement about how to handle potential landmines, you and your friend(s) are much more likely to avoid disaster all together. Instead, you will quickly create a community of support, acceptance and you can watch as your children navigate the often treterious slopes of social interaction.

The choice is up to you – take your chances, or be pro-active and ensure a better play date for you and your kids.

For more information on The Parenting On Track™ program and Proactive Parenting.

Picky Eating & Pesky Problems

ignore pesky behaviorWhen parents first start my class, they ask, “How do I GET my kids to …?” And I answer, “I don’t know how to GET your kids to do anything.” Besides, that isn’t the problem. You already know 100s of ways to GET your children to do what you want. The problem is, the problem returns. The next day you are back at it. The only thing this breeds is exhaustion on the parents’ part and frustration on the child’s part.

The parenting philosophy I use isn’t about using some quick-fix to “GET” your children to do something in the short term; rather, it is about making lasting sustainable changes to our parenting so that we can nurture our children into becoming independent, empowered people whom we love spending time with.

With that said, I thought it might be helpful during this month of talking about wellness to touch on the topic of picky eaters. I think the question of, “What do I do with my picky eater?” is at the top of the list for most parents of small children—wouldn’t you agree?

For help on the nutrition end of this topic, I went straight to Porter Hospital Dietitian (and Parenting On Track™ mom), Amy Rice, and together we came up with the following “guidelines” for navigating your children through the murky waters of picky eating.

Concerned parents often ask, “How can I get my child to eat vegetables?”

Unfortunately, they are asking the wrong question. The question they want to be asking is “How can I teach my child good nutrition?” The answer to that question is a lot harder than hiding vegetables in spaghetti sauce. As in other areas of parenting, it is important to give the child structured independence, so that they can develop a healthy relationship with food.

The key to feeding your child is to first understand the division of responsibility. It is the parent’s job to choose the healthy food, and it is the child’s job to decide how much they are going to eat. They may eat it all or not a single bite. It is their choice. You have done your job by providing them with a healthy meal.

  1. Serve one meal for the entire family. Avoid catering. You are not a short-order cook, so don’t make different foods for each person. The whole family is offered the food you make for each meal. Giving in to the picky-eater’s demands only strengthens their pickiness.
  2. Serve at least one healthy food you know your child likes at each meal. Do not worry if your child decides against eating anything for a meal or snack. The routine of meals and snacks lets both you and your child know that another opportunity to eat will come in a few hours, even if it is from dinner until breakfast.
  3. Be Sweden—stay neutral. Regardless of what your child does or does not eat, try not to worry. Keep your reactions and responses as neutral as possible. For example, praising children for cleaning their plates does not teach them to listen to their personal hunger cues about when they are full. It can also create unhealthy emotional connections with food.
  4. Avoid rewarding for healthy eating and bribing to try new foods. When dessert is used as a reward for, say, trying a new vegetable at dinner, the dessert becomes a thing of value. Kids learn that a sweet food is better than a healthy one. Instead of using food as a reward or bribes, ask your child to taste the new food and keep serving it until it becomes familiar.

How do you teach nutrition and foster healthy eating habits?

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Turn the TV off for meals and snacks. Not only does watching TV while eating promote mindless overeating, but most food-related commercials draw kids toward unhealthy choices.
  2. Cooking and eating together is the best way to teach kids healthy eating habits. Kids need meal routines, just like they need bedtime routines. Let your child help prepare meals. Eat sitting together at the table. Turn off the TV, put the toys away and talk as a family.
  3. Do what you say—eat your vegetables. Children learn by watching the people around them, and your food choices will influence theirs.
  4. Buy healthy foods at the grocery store. If unhealthy foods aren’t in the house, your child can’t eat them.

Picky eating is like a lot of other “problems” we encounter with our small children. So much of the behavior you view as problematic is about your children wanting control over their own lives, and I think you will find that creating healthy routines and relinquishing some of the control to them will bring you much further toward eliminating the problems than you ever thought possible.

The bottom line with your picky eater is, relax—and let your child have some say in what he or she will and won’t eat. Besides, they have a whole lifetime to get into those brussels sprouts.

For more information on this topic, you can check out “Child of Mine” by Ellyn Satter, a Registered Dietitian and internationally recognized expert on pediatric nutrition.

Many thanks to Amy Rice for her contribution to this article.

Show Me The Money!

The economy is bad. We all know it, and we are all worried about it. We are a nation of consumers, and the credit card companies and mortgage lenders have convinced us to feel good about spending money we don’t really have. And so here we are in 2009, in one of the worst economic crises since the Great Depression.

What’s a parent to do about all of this? Start training your kids about money NOW.

Don’t wait! Your children are never too young to learn the value of money and, more importantly, to begin to develop a healthy relationship with money.

You cannot teach your children how to manage money by just talking to them about it, or by lecturing them about it, or by sharing your own wisdom with them (nice as that would be). Kids have to practice. Yes, practice how to handle money from the youngest of ages.

Think about it: wouldn’t you rather have your child, at age five, practice spending and saving money for the first time with the small amount of allowance they get, than have your child, at age 18, practice for the first time with his or her brand new credit card?

At Parenting On Track™, we believe that learning how to spend, save and give away money is a life skill that takes many years to acquire. You, as parents, have the opportunity to give your children the chance to practice this skill as soon as they are old enough not to put the money into their mouths. You do this by giving them an allowance at the weekly Family Meeting and, well, that’s it.

Once you have given your children their allowance, you no longer have any say over what they do with it. Take a deep breath; there’s more. On the other hand, you aren’t required to buy anything for them beyond their basic needs. So, this means that

  • When they ask, in the grocery store, for that piece of candy, you get to say, YES. “Did you bring your money?”
  • And when they want that designer jacket that all their friends have, you say, YES. “Do you have enough money saved to buy it?”
  • And finally, when they ask for their own cell phone, you can say, YES. “Will your allowance and part-time job cover the monthly bill?”

The best way to teach your children the value of money is to allow them to learn it for themselves. For more information on allowance, money management and helping your children create a healthy relationship with money, check out the MP3 on Money Management on our website. It’s never too early or too late to invest in promoting a healthy relationship between your children and money.

Homework Hell-p

home work police, helpIn regards to Homework Hell-p!

I read a blog post not long ago by the mother of a 2nd grader who needed some guidance on how to help her child with homework. Without rehashing the entire blog post, here’s the gist of it. Her daughter had an assignment to do, and twiddled her thumbs for hours until mom started breathing down her neck; mom is now afraid that the child will flunk out of college and never learn a thing unless she continues to be the homework police, and, well, forget about dinner!

At the end of her article, this mom still didn’t have a strategy for how to deal with the homework issue. What she did have was a gut feeling that if she didn’t come up with a strategy for both her and her daughter, it could be a long 10 years.

First off, if this mom is anything like the parents who show up at a class I teach, she just might have a belief that children who dawdle while doing their homework will fail in school, won’t get into college, won’t get a good job and will lead a less than successful life. I know, it’s a little over the top, but these “beliefs” that we have can wreak havoc on us and on our kids’ lives.

If you are one of these parents who have strong beliefs about homework, take a step back and remember that this child (or yours) is in second grade and working on the first big homework assignment of her life. Of course she is dawdling—she doesn’t really know what is expected of her yet!

Second, if mom wants to become the homework police—and stay the homework police for the remainder of this child’s academic career—then she did the right thing by breathing down her neck. And she better get good at it because she has at least another eleven years of poking and prodding to do.

Ah, you hadn’t considered this, had you? That’s one of the pickles parents get themselves into. They create a habit, or a short-term solution to a long-term challenge, and find themselves doing things for years that started out as a “one time only” proposition.

What could she (or you) do if she doesn’t want to be the homework police and has better things to do than micromanage her daughter’s life? She could do—are you ready?—nothing. Yup, that’s right—nothing. At least for a while. At least until she begins to understand more about how her daughter views homework.

This little second grader is never going to learn how to manage her time or how she best gets things done without figuring that out herself. Our kids don’t learn time management because we tell them which assignment to do, when to do it and how it should be done. They learn by not turning in an assignment, dealing with the aftermath and then coming up with a plan so that it never happens again. (Okay, if it never happens again at 45, you can consider yourself a success.)

My recommendation to this mom? Relax! Your daughter is only in second grade and has a long time to figure out how to manage her time to get everything done. Let her dawdle and doodle, and let her get a C or an F on the assignment. You can be sure that learning is taking place and, after all, isn’t that what school is for? Instead of standing over her shoulder, you will be free to… do what you like, including having the resources to be happy, friendly and available for your children if they happen to experience disappointment as they learn.