Parenting with Natural Consequences

Written by: Jorinde Berben
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I don’t know what life is like in your family with small(ish) children, but in our family, mornings are a bit of a war zone. It starts with the fact that my kids have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning (as do I), continues with me yelling they have to do x,y and z for about an hour and ends with us making it to school just in time all totally stressed out. There’s room for improvement, to say the least.

One of the main issues is that my children don’t really have a great sense of urgency. Partly because their brains work a bit differently, partly, I’m sure, because I voice the sense of urgency in our household so eloquently that they don’t feel the need to worry about it. If Mom is watching time for us, why should we?

I’ve tried a couple of different things already to make the mornings run a bit smoother. I used a checklist for morning routines and a timetimer to make time visible. I’ve tried the gentle, supportive approach and the drill sergeant method. Nothing really seems to work for more than a few days, so this week I decided that we needed a natural consequence so that they could learn the effects of their actions.

One of the mornings, as I noticed my sound volume increasing with no effect whatsoever, I told my children I would just let them take care of things on their own and that I would be waiting in the car as they finished whatever they had to do. They took their time, as usual, playing around instead of filling their lunch box or putting on socks. And yes, we were late. Not late enough for my taste, because the school bell rang late as well, but late enough for my daughter to have to run upstairs. She later told me that not being able to say a proper goodbye had been hard. My son didn’t pack a snack so ate part of his lunch for a snack.

The thing is, I can warn my children 100 times over, 1000 times over, but unless there are times when the danger I’ve warned them about feels real, the message doesn’t really get through. We need to experience some things in life in order to learn how to deal with them, or to motivate us to avoid them. My children need this, and I need it just as much. Sometimes it takes being late to remember I hate being late. Or it takes a day of not eating and getting dizzy at night to remember that my body needs food, even if I tend to forget when in hyper focus.

Of course there are limits to natural consequences. I won’t wait for a truck to hit my kids before dragging them off the street, nor for them to get overweight before limiting the amount of sugar, but the truth is, there are probably many more instances in which I could let go of control a bit more and let things run their course. The social context, nature and life in general will bring op consequences that are far more compelling than my yelling. Being tired, hungry or not having anyone to play with is a great motivation for changing your actions. And then I wouldn’t be policing so much.

I’m a mother, and I hover. I find that fathers are usually far more relaxed in this respect, and it is only one of the things I admire in them.

So on this day, I want to wish all the fathers who read this blog, and my Papa in particular, a wonderful Father’s Day (we celebrate a week early in Belgium)! Thank you for allowing us the room to explore the world and learn on our own, with two solid shoulders to lean against when that gets rough at times. ❤

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