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When dealing with consequences, I encourage parents to look at the situation with their maturity and life experience. Figure out, the best you can, what the natural consequence might be. If your child is ready to face it, let it happen. Let your son go outside without the coat (take it along, of course, for when he learns the lesson from the natural consequence). Be there with the arnica when your daughter does slip on the wet floor you’re tired of telling her to stay off of. If your child isn’t ready to face the natural consequences, block them and trust that there will be ample time for lessons later, when your child is ready.

For example, what is the natural consequence of playing with a DVD player you asked your child to stop playing with? I would think it might be breaking the DVD player. If my child were seven or eight and had an allowance, then I would allow them to do it, break it if need be, and go without the DVD player until they bought us a new one, or buy a new one and take the money out of their future allowances. Real life lesson there. But a 3 1/2-year-old doesn’t have the maturity or the means to understand this type of a lesson. At that age, I would work to block the natural consequence. If you can’t move the DVD player to a place your child is unable to reach it, what about unplugging it unless you’re using it? Before doing that, though, you might try other things. Since you’re not usually there to give a code word, maybe you can tape a picture of a stop sign or a red hand held in the stop position. Let the sign hang over the buttons as a reminder to him not to push them. Maybe even an actual picture of you doing the stop sign with that look like you caught him in time. As for punishments, they are only things we do to children to make them feel bad so that they will learn their lesson. It’s the belief that people have to suffer to learn, to drive home the lesson. In reality, punishments are unnecessary, and often take away from the lessons that life provides. They turn the child’s focus to the punishment, not on the lesson. They also lead to confusion about the separation between the person and the behavior – if the behavior is bad and deserving of punishment, it translates that the person is bad and deserving of punishment. This often goes hand in hand, in Christian circles, with the belief that children are nothing but dirty little sinners. While we all bear the sin nature, this doesn’t mean that an action is sin. This also suggests that punishing children can take away their sins – but only God can do that.

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