Although it can be hard to watch your child fail, it can be a very effective option to allow your child to experience the natural consequences of his or her behaviour. Rather than argue with your child over every matter, make your child aware of the consequences of his or her behaviour and then let him or her experience it. This obviously does not apply to situations where your child might come to some harm if you were to let his or her behaviour go unchecked. Not only will this teach your child to be internally responsible for monitoring his or her behaviour (as opposed to relying solely on external messages from other people), but it means that you do not need to spend the energy trying to control every aspect of your child’s day. In this way, you will have more energy to engage in positive activities with your child. Examples of letting your child experience natural consequences include the following:
If your child routinely relies on you to pack his sports clothes, and you are tired of nagging and harassing, point out to your child that if he does not pack his sports clothes, then he will… (Get into trouble, feel silly, be unable to play sport – whatever the consequence may be). Once you have done this, leave your child alone. If he does not take his sports clothes, he will experience these uncomfortable consequences and will no doubt make more of an effort to remember his clothes in the future.
Rather than hounding your child to complete homework, allow them to make their own decisions but then live with the consequences… getting into trouble at school, getting a demerit or not doing so well on a test.
These natural consequences need to be age appropriate, as it would not be fair to apply the above example to a very young child. However, even young children can learn through experiencing natural consequences. For example, a 2 year old who wants to bite into a lemon can be left to do so. The experience will be unpleasant, but no harm will come of it and they will learn that lemons are bitter. In this situation, leaving the child to explore her world and learn through experience is a better option than trying to pry a lemon out of her hand, possibly getting into a situation of conflict.
It is possible that the hardest part of allowing your child to experience natural consequences is to tolerate your own anxiety or frustration whilst watching your child step into a difficult or uncomfortable situation. If you find it very difficult to manage your own emotions, or if you find your desire to overly control your child’s world to be overwhelming, you might consider seeking professional assistance.