Four Ingredients to Train Your Child: Ingredient Three

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Clear Expectations, Consistent Consequences

Now that we have looked at the “why” of child training, and are working towards a loving, healthy relationship with our children, we need to dive into ingredient three: clear expectations and consistent consequences.

First, have I clearly communicated to my child that I expect them to obey right away and with a good attitude? We might need to ask ourselves these questions: Am I a threatening parent? (Johnny, if you don’t…then I am going to…)  Am I a parent that tells them to do something and then starts counting? (Jenny, I told you to…1 - 2 - 3 …)  Am I a parent who laughs when they disobey sometimes, and then flies off the handle when they disobey other times? All of these things are confusing and disheartening to a child. Confusing expectations and inconsistent consequences are exasperating to children. We need to clearly communicate to our children both verbally and with consistent consequences that we expect them to obey right away and with a good attitude both us, as parents, and other adults who are in authority over them— grandparents, teachers, etc.

What are consistent consequences? First, there are both natural and logical consequences. Natural consequences follow foolish or willful wrong behavior when there has been no prior agreement between you and your child concerning that behavior. You support the natural consequence or impose one that seems natural and fitting to the offense. Here is an example: Jenny is swinging around her ice cream cone and you tell her to stop. When she doesn’t stop, the ice cream flies off and lands on the ground. Jenny is sad/mad about this, but you support the natural consequence.  You do not get her another ice cream cone but let her experience the natural consequence of her disobedience. Another example of a natural consequence: Johnny and James are fighting over a toy and a lamp gets knocked over and broken. The natural consequence is for this to get taken out of their allowance or do extra work to help pay for the lamp. Natural consequences can be applied to a wide range of child training issues using a variety of consequences such as time outs, loss of privileges, and additional household chores. This type of consequence allows the parent to address a behavioral issue at the time it occurs and in a way that will make a point. 

Logical consequences, on the other hand, involve a prior agreement between parent and child concerning particular behaviors. For example, if Jenny doesn’t make her bed in the morning right after she brushes her teeth, she washes five windows that day. Another example: if a child has developed a habit of saying unkind words, the agreed-upon logical consequence might be writing out ten times a Bible verse about controlling one’s tongue or about being kind. (This would also need to include some other parent interaction that moves your child toward kind words.)

This kind of child training begins as soon as a child can understand what you are saying, and it continues throughout childhood. But is this where it begins? Nope. Even a toddler can understand at a basic level when a parent tells them to come, or to stay.  If they don’t obey, you can use verbal discipline such as tone of voice—which they understand—or even gentle physical discipline to train them. This is actually one of the most important parts of child training as it starts shaping them towards obedience from their most formative age.

Remember, the key to these consequences is consistency! Consistency is what actually trains, and what helps your child be at peace and secure.

Clear expectations and consistent consequences help a child be more at peace in their spirit. They know deep down that this is right and good. It is difficult, but remember, discipline is a central component of true love! Next, we will look at the fourth ingredient and capstone of child training which keeps all of this from slipping into mere legalism and behavior modification—heartfelt correction.