But I didn
t see that at first. So I kept at it and kept at it. And paren
ting wore me down and
drained me. It was not that much fun or enjoyable. I found my
self in endless power struggles
with my kids, particularly my oldest son.
The light-bulb moment
Eventually, with the help of my dear friend and mentor Dr.
Shefali, I was able to understand
consequences (and thus discipline) in a completely new way. W
hen we give un-natural
consequences to our kids, it takes their focus away from wh
at they are doing and places it
outside of them and onto the reward or punishment. Now, in
stead of really focusing on their
behavior and choices, they are focused on getting more of the
good stuff (reward) or avoidin
the bad stuff (consequence).
The problem here is it is our human nature to find ways to mak
e ourselves more comfortable. It
is just the way we are wired. We seek out things that make us mor
e comfortable and avoid
things that make us less.
We may hide our behavior to avoid punishment (aka lying). This
external consequence does
nothing to teach us what to do better next time. Rather it ju
st reinforces our natural desire to
avoid getting this consequence in the future. Whether we avoi
d it by doing better next time or
just hiding it better next time.
We may also do more of what gets us what we want more of. In the
example of going on the
potty, we may sit on the potty 397 times a day. We hope to get
that little sticker or candy or
whatever it is. This behavior has nothing whatsoever to do
with whether we actually have to go
all 397 times. It is merely us looking for more of what makes
us comfortable (i.e., the reward).
What IS a better way?
A better way is to bring Newton
s 3rd law into our parenting. To allow a natural reaction
s action. Not one that we have artificially created.
That sounds perfectly reasonable, right? But I bet you are w
ondering how in the world you are
actually supposed to do that?
s look at a few examples:
On a positive note, imagine our child holds the door for th
e next person coming in to a store
and the person makes a big fuss over them. They thank them and
tell them how kind and polite
they are. Odds are at that our child feels proud of themselves
and is more likely to hold the
door again the next time.
One of my favorite examples that Dr. Shefali has used is when your c
t turn their
bedroom light off when they leave for school in the morning
. You have nagged, yelled,
threatened and punished (no screen time for a week!) to no avai
l. Your child still leaves the
light on. In order to conserve energy, we need to turn off
the light when we leave the room.
Using natural consequences, it would be important for you to
sit down with your child in a calm
manner (NOT in the heat of the moment). Explain to your child why
it is important to turn off
the light when they leave the room.
If your child still leaves the light on when they leave th
e room, perhaps you remove the light
from their room until they can better remember. Having a bedro
om light is a responsibility. If
they are not choosing to be responsible with the light, p
erhaps they are not ready to be
responsible for the light. Of course, you would not use t
his example with a very young child.
They are not developmentally ready to be able to do the right th
ing in this case.
Which is an important point.
Natural consequences have to be natural given the circumstances, i
ncluding the child
In the case of potty-training, if your child continues
to not want to sit on the potty or doesn
seem to get the idea of what the potty is for, or refuses
to sit on the potty, rather than try to
bribe them with external rewards, perhaps it is better to s
imply back off and wait a few more
months and try again. Barring any underlying medical issue, if
we can be patient enough to wait
until a child decides they are ready to potty train, the whol
e process will go much quicker.
In the case of a child not wanting to clean up their room
or put away their laundry, again
depending on the developmental level of the child, if they are not
ready to handle caring for
their things, perhaps they are not ready to get new things
(like clothes or toys, etc.).
With these examples, I hope I have given you some ideas of how yo
u can begin shifting away
from rewards and punishments. And rather, move towards allowing n
atural consequences to
lead the way.
And when you allow natural consequences to talk, it is import
ant to follow up with your child.
Make sure they know or help them to figure out what they can
do differently next time to make
a better choice and thus, initiate a different (hopefully bet
I have created part 3 of my FREE series on discipline. Make sure
you pick up your copy below.
>>> Fill out
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for Parents <<<
What is your biggest discipline challenge right now?
Erin Taylor is a mom, parent coach, and author of Con
nection and Kindness: The Key to Changing the World
through Parenting. Her podcast, Powerful Parenting for Toda
s Kids is enjoyed by parents around the world. Erin
was able to take the tragedy of the death of her infant dau
ghter and turn it around to not only survive, but thriv
and help others to do the same. You can learn more about