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  • Writer's pictureDanielle Aubin, LCSW

I'm Breaking Up With "Natural Consequences."

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You heard me right, we are breaking up for good. Gone are the days when I thought that “natural consequences” were a way to “teach” my children. they’re not. It’s just a “natural” way to manipulate, a sly way that behaviorism insidiously infiltrated my life without me fully realizing. Never again.

“But how are your children going to learn if you withhold natural consequences from them?” Let me tell you something, guilt and shame are not great teachers. When we make mistakes, yes we learn but getting hurt or missing out on something we deeply care about isn’t the best way to learn something. When parents exude love, gentleness, wisdom, and patience, children can let their guard down and actually truly learn what they need to learn, no harsh “natural consequence” needed.

I used to think that “natural consequences” like cleaning up a big mess or missing out on seeing friends due to needing to clean up was a “teaching moment.” It wasn’t. It taught my kids to be ashamed and sad when they got impulsively into something and made a mess. It caused them to fear their lack of impulse control and fear making “mistakes.” They are kids! They are going to make messes!! It’s not a mistake, it’s in perfect balance with their development.

Recently, I snapped out of it and told my kids that even though they had made a mess and it was hard for me to clean up, I was still going to take them to the park because I still had energy to do it. I fought back the thought that I was “reinforcing bad behavior”. Instead, I sat down with my regulated and happy children and explained how to ask me if they want to play with food coloring in the future instead of taking it into the bathroom without telling me. They understood, apologized, and explained that they would ask me next time. And guess what? Next time, they asked me. No shaming or guilting needed.

The way I parent is the change I wish to see in the world. Shaming, guilting, punishing, blaming is not teaching and doesn’t change hearts. Love, understanding, compassion, gentleness change hearts and allow for learning to happen. Gentleness and compassion are not “rewards”, they are agents of change.


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