Piggybacking means you add your own commentary onto the lesson taught by the natural consequence. It is, essentially, an “I told you so”. The reason it blocks the lesson is two-fold. First, the parent gives the child the message that they don’t believe the child is capable of learning from the lesson and reinsert themselves as the teachers, “if only you would listen.” Second, the parent, by reinserting themselves between the child and the lesson, deflects the child’s attention and turns it towards the guilt and shame at not having listened as well as frustration towards the parent for having been right.
It is very difficult to remain silent when you have warned your child what might go wrong and they have insisted on learning the hard way, but it is a gift you give your child when you convey to them the message, “You are a smart person. You made a poor choice and I trust you to learn from that choice and make a wiser decision next time.”
Your child may have to experience something a few times before coming to believe that the consequence will be consistent. This is especially frustrating for parents-but we are the same way. The reason is, the natural consequences aren’t always guaranteed and it may take a few times to learn something isn’t worth the risk. And, despite our wishes, a child may learn that they are worth the risk. But this is the danger of telling a child something will happen as a way of warning them against a certain behavior.
If they child disobeys and does the thing anyway, and the promised result doesn’t happen, the child will learn to not trust the parent and that is a lesson you don’t want your child to learn. Often parents will say, “If you run on wet cement you will fall.” The truth is, “If you run on wet cement you MIGHT fall.” It is wiser to teach the RISK than to make threats against behaviors where there is no guaranteed result. Teaching a risk prepares your child to make a choice-THAT is discipline!
This is because the truth exists for all choices we face-running into the street when there’s no car coming will not result in death, premarital sex may not result in pregnancy or contraction of an STD, and people “get away with” adultery all the time. While we want our children to learn from the natural consequences, avoidance of the natural consequences cannot be the only reason that we teach for making choices. It is best to emphasize the natural consequences attached to the wise and better choices!
The reason using a natural consequence as a teaching tool is NOT punishment is because it is not within the parent’s power to impose. Unless the parent blocks the consequence, it will (or MAY) occur. In fact, this is what the book of Proverbs is-a list of wise and poor choices with the built in natural consequences. A wise person makes the wise choices and opens themselves up to the positive natural consequences while a foolish person makes the poor choices and opens themselves up to the negative natural consequences. Our goal should be to become wise people ourselves and to raise our children to be wise as well.