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Natural vs. Imposed Consequences

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

I'm having a rough go with my six year old dd.  She has been very rude lately and is pushing back against any boundaries I set.  Usually we don't do a lot of punishment around our house, but I feel like the ways that I have been disciplining her have been becoming more punitive.  But I just don't know what to do - I feel like I'm at the end of my rope. 




-She refuses to put on her pajamas to get ready for bed and then throws her clothes at me :  no bedtime reading for the night


-She complains about everything, food, other people's food, heat, cleaning up, taking turns with her brother :  every time a complaint comes out of her mouth she has to clean up something


-She is screaming because we can't find her stuffed dog :  we wait to get into the car until she's done, and she is late for Sunday School


I feel like whenever she is unhappy, she doesn't have any control over her behaviour so I have to impose these external controls to help her stop acting in this way.  I don't know if I'm doing the right thing or not, but most of these behaviours don't have a straightforward natural consequence (except for an exasperated mama by the end of the day,) especially one that would be recognized by a six year old.  Any thoughts? 

post #2 of 6

I would be frustrated too.


I think it would be best to pick battles.  For instance, is it really a big deal if she doesn't want to wear pajamas?  Can you let that one go?  "Do you want to sleep in jammies tonight?"  "no".  "FIne"  (less laundry anyway)..It may be important to you though, so if it is, ignore me here.


Ignore all complaining.   Honestly, little complainers grow up to be big complainers.  I don't want to hang around friends who always feel negative or complain.  If you stop engaging in the complaining, eventually she will stop complaining.  By "ignore", I don't mean pretend she's not talking... I mean say "Mmm-hmm", then move on.  Ask her "Well, what did you LIKE today?"  She will need help with that for a long time.  But, you can teach her to think of the good things she did that day.   You can tell her your favorite things of the day.  Even the little things like "I found my favorite orange pen in the car today!  I thought it was lost".  Or "I loved the penguin show we watched today".  (don't base your favorite thing of the day on her behavior "I liked that you didn't scream when it was time to leave" only makes her feel like you are manipulating her)


The screaming.... that wouldn't fly.  I'd sit in the car with it running, and listen to the radio.  If she wants her stuffed dog that bad, she'd better hustle and look for it, while you all enjoy some nice music in the car.  I REALLY like the kid's radio show called "adventures in Odyssey".  Maybe if you had those for the car ride to church, she'd want to be in the car and quiet to hear the story.  Or, if she's outside the car screaming, she can miss the first part of the story, but you all will hear it.  Logical consequences are, if you aren't in the car when everybody else is, too bad, so sad.


Try to think before getting into any sort of battle with her.  Is it important?  Is it a deal breaker?  If it's not, let it go, and if she's just naturally confrontational or stubborn, she won't have a reason to argue.  If you have a kid with a stubborn temperament, you usually will lose because kids have no place to be, and nothing else to do.  You will cave in because you DO have other things to do.  She knows this.


Kids are so smart.  They have ideas and thoughts that are really good.  They can make good choices, and are fully capable of deciding if they want to sleep in nothing, or jammies.  She may have a very good reason for this.  Or maybe she's just trying to delay bedtime.  So, ask her first, let her choose, then read books anyway.  If she is rude and hateful, kiss her good night, and she can look at the pictures until she's ready to fall asleep.  


Logical consequences are the things that happen when you make choices that aren't working for everybody.  It's not a punishment, it's just a consequence.  A natural consequence, is like if you are throwing a rock into the air, and it lands on your head, or you are messing with your cup at dinner, and your milk spills into your lap.  

post #3 of 6



A lot depends on how we view kids and their behavior. I believe and this is the Collaborative problem solving approach mantra - cps ' children do well if they can and not children do well if they want , so extrinsic motivators are not going to teach the lagging skills. Kids would prefer to be adaptive and successful so better to help them be successful. In any case better to deal with issues , not by blowing off the table our kid's concerns but rather in a collaborative way address both our concerns , problem solve and brainstorm a mutually satisfying solution. In this way we help kids internalize and make the limit their own.


A problem with consequences is not the lesson we are trying to teach , but rather how kids experience them -usually as being controlling and unfair , undermines trust and causes more conflict 


for more on natural consequences http://tinyurl.com/c4qlmok

post #4 of 6
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the thoughts. 


nextcommercial, I think you're right about choosing one's battles.  I'm just trying to figure out how to do that without being wishywashy in the boundaries that I've already set.  For example, the pajama thing - I don't really care if she wears pjs or not, but I felt like I had to be firm about it since I had just made a new rule that people always needed to be wearing clothing in the house.  I had made the rule because the kids were just taking off their clothes whenever they entered the house and tossing them on the floor where ever they happened to be.  Of course the clothes would get dirty, and then they'd need new clothes next time they went out.  In other words - huge laundry problem.  But the reasoning for the rule doesn't really apply to sleeping naked, I was just trying to make it as simple as possible, i.e. always wear clothes. 


I did try and THINK today before getting into any power struggles with her, and question myself whether or not it was really important, and it did help a lot.  Hardly any problems at all today.


mary934, I really want to work collaboratively at solving problems with my daughter; we always have used a similar technique with my older son.  I agree that it's the best way to do things, but it just doesn't seem to work with my dd.  I think  it's because when she gets upset, she loses all grip on logic and reality, and she doesn't have a way to solve problems.  She's just mad, or sad, or freaked out.  Her emotions get the upper hand.  I tell her that I will wait until she is feeling calm and then we can discuss the problem, but by that time, the problem is usually gone (in her mind, anyway.) 

post #5 of 6

One of the phrases I kept repeating to my kids is: "You have a right to your emotions, but you do not have the right to make other people suffer for them."


Your examples:

"-She refuses to put on her pajamas to get ready for bed and then throws her clothes at me :  no bedtime reading for the night."


I would also make sure she pick up the clothes & also told her (calmly) that I felt angry with her when she did it.


"-She complains about everything, food, other people's food, heat, cleaning up, taking turns with her brother :  every time a complaint comes out of her mouth she has to clean up something."


    That's a hard one. I don't know if I would have her clean something up for it. Instead I might just say something along the lines of "I can see you don't like it. I heard you. Please stop the repetition."  I think that the Faber & Mazlish (How to Talk..) book can help with that - when they start to complain you can sometimes just do a reflection back "Yeah, it sounds like the heat is really getting you down." or a wish-fulifillment "Yeah, it's really hot. I bet you wish you could jump into a giant swimming pool with ice-cubes...No? what about a make-your-own-blizzard room...." This can distract them, also let's them know you heard them.



Taking turns "Yup, it's sometimes annoying to have to take turns. But, that's the breaks."  She continues to complain... "Yes, I heard you, you don't want to take turns, nevertheless, it has to be this way. If you continue to complain about this you will [not have your turn? go someplace by yourself for a couple of minutes to complain to the walls?  ]



"-She is screaming because we can't find her stuffed dog :  we wait to get into the car until she's done, and she is late for Sunday School."


I have no experience with this sort of thing. Was there any time before the screaming began that you could have gotten her into the car?

post #6 of 6

Collaborative problem solving is hard and messy . The best time to do CPS is out of the moment , it is not a magic bullet but learning takes place all the time. Important to go real slow especially with getting her concerns onto the table. The best resource is http://livesinthebalance.org and the blog I regulary share here is useful as it combines CPS with other similar practices 


hang in there 

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