A definition of consequences I like is, ‘something that follows as a result’.
We create our own consequences in our lives. An excellent example of this for yourself as a parent is the positive changes you can create in your life when you focus on what you can change rather than what is beyond your control.
A fair and consistent coaching agreement is within your control and is the foundation of a successful and respectful positive discipline approach. A fair coaching agreement describes exactly what behaviours you expect from your child, what support they can expect from you, and all the related consequences.
Behaviours and their consequences must be clearly described so there is no room for disagreement, confusion, argument or disappointment and frustration. For example any ‘good student’ behaviour is behaviour that helps your child work well when being coached, and any ‘bad student’ behaviour is behaviour that stops them from working well. You can decide together what exactly ‘good student behaviour’ and ‘bad student behaviour’ is; and then come to agreements about all the related consequences. I adapted ideas from The Assertive Discipline method which has been written to help teachers control behaviours in classrooms, so that families can use many of the excellent ideas Lee Cantor describes at home with their children.
A consequence definition: Something that happens as a result of a particular action or set of conditions. Find ways to give lots more positive acknowledgement and recognition of ‘good student’ behaviour, while still including negative consequences for ‘bad student’ behaviour. We often stop noticing the positive things our children are doing because we are so worried about the negative unhelpful things. If you don’t like the ‘bad’ and ‘good’ terms, you can find other words that work better for you. For instance, depending on the child, I might describe their behaviour as ‘acting like a mature student’ or ‘not acting maturely’ or I might use age as a measure and say that they are ‘acting nine years old’ or ‘acting younger than their age and three years old’.
I have found that positive discipline works for anyone. I use it with very young children, teens, young adults, and those children and young adults with disabilities. A strong belief underlying it is that our children choose moment by moment how they will behave; and even when a student seems to be out of control and seems unable to behave as a ‘good student’ does, they at some point choose to lose control and act badly, and so are still responsible for their actions. Read part of a series of emails exchanged with one of my families as they reclaimed their parenting power .
I believe that we adults often underestimate our children’s awareness and intelligence. I am still amazed at how fast a child can make radical changes in behaviour when they really do want the positive consequences and do want to avoid the negative consequences. I have found that children with disabilities are especially allowed to behave in ways that are considered unacceptable for children without disabilities. Don’t treat them as unable to change their behaviours. Maybe you think you are being most loving but perhaps instead you are limiting their options with your beliefs, and actually being disrespectful. Even the most extreme seemingly compulsive behaviour may be able to be modified. In my experience with my daughter who has Asperger’s Syndrome, and with other children and young adults with disabilities, many consciously and deliberately make choices about how they will act, even when that does not seem the case at the time; and when there are clear agreed-upon positive and negative consequences for their actions, behaviours that they seemed unable to change, are changed.
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