Parenting Consequences VS Punishments; four points to consider

Consequences VS Punishments; four points to consider

2016 Feb 15

Your teenager breaks curfew again. Your ten year old comes home from school with yet another pencil case missing. Your five year old has created a mess at the table again… What do you do?

Actions such as these cannot go unnoticed. But what is your approach in handling this type of behavior? Consequences and punishments are both a result of specific behavior. But as parents, understanding the differences in their approach may just be the thin line between helping our children learn life lessons and frustrating them with pointless experiences. Consider the following and make ch’oices that would truly benefit your child.

  1. One is natural while the other is enforced –

A consequence is a natural flow to life events. Children understand from a very early age that a cup of water not carefully handled can create a mess and that a staircase can be potentially harmful if steps are not taken with care. Thus they also understand that all type of behavior, whether good or bad, has a consequence.

Punishment, on the other hand brought on quite suddenly in most cases and can create an unnatural flow of events to children. If a mess at a table is treated with a frustrated “Go to your room! And no T.V today”, a child is unlikely to see a meaningful connection between what has happened

  1. One encourages responsibility while the other drives it away –

Consequences of any behavior are still within a child’s understanding and thus help the child take responsibility. Taking the previous example again, a spilled cup of water needs to be cleaned. A child can be coaxed to clean up the mess; creating a sense of responsibility over what happened. Punishment by way of scolding or hitting, on the other hand drives the attention away from that responsibility and forces a child into needless fear and embarrassment.

  1. One needs thought while the other is a quick fix –

The consequences of certain behavior need to be made evident to children beforehand. For example, if late nights are not permitted during a school week, a child should also be told the consequence of such behavior before that behavior itself occurs. However, a punishment, very often comes from a place of irritation, anger or frustration and lack thought. It serves to gratify our own feelings temporarily but does it really help a child learn from his mistakes?

  1. One encourages growth while the other limits it –

A reckless game of cricket ends with a shattered window in a neighbor’s house. If young children are encouraged to use their own allowance and fix up the neighbor’s window, they will learn the valuable lesson of owing up to their actions.

Teaching children to handle the consequences of their actions helps them grow while punishments serve a pointless purpose.


Joanne Sathyadass has a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Journalism, Psychology and English Literature from the University of Bangalore now serving as a Special Needs Educator

For any queries please email Joanne on joanne.parenting@gmail.com

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