Threats vs Consequences - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 15 Old 05-23-2007, 09:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Is it just semantics? I have an almost 4 yo that I've been trying to use GD on, but sometimes it's very tough! I've read about not using threats and using consequences instead, and I see the difference, but if they are too young to really understand consequences, than how do you keep from using threats? If I'm understanding it correctly, here's an example that I would use about her not wanting to brush her teeth:
-a consequence is, if you don't brush your teeth you will get cavities
-a threat is, if you don't brush your teeth you are not getting any treats today (one time I even threatened to put a bag of candy that she got at a party in the trash and then followed through by really doing it)

So, I guess the threat isn't GD, right? But, even adults don't understand consequences, right?

Another example about hitting:
-a consequence, if you hit someone it hurts them
-a threat, if you hit her again, we have to leave her house

I admit it, most of the time it's been tough with a persistent kid, and I do resort to threats, time outs/ins/time alone (whatever you want to call it, since this is semantics to me too!) for hitting or throwing toys, or after several warnings for some basic rules.

So, is there really a difference to a child? I also understand that my tone of voice has a lot to do with if I'm being gentle or not, and I'm always aware of that.
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#2 of 15 Old 05-24-2007, 01:24 AM
 
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The problem with natural consequences is that sometimes they are too abstract or too distant in the future for children (and most adults too) So that's where logical consequences come in -- where the adult steps in to provide a consequence. But it must be relevant, reasonable, and respectful. So in the teeth brushing example - taking the bike away for not brushing would not be relevant. Forbiding candy for the next 5 years would not be reasonable. Saying anything with a loud, angry, shameful voice would not be respectful. In my book that's what turns a consequence into a threat. If you are not respectful or if you repeat yourself over and over without follow through -- that turns a consequence into a threat.

In our house, teeth brushing will happen. The choice is "do you want to hear me tell a story while I brush or not" If the child is agreeable and calm they get to hear the story. If not, "well, looks like we can try again tomorrow to hear the next bit of the story" DH tells great stories and they always want to hear more, so they are motivated. Now telling stories has nothing to do with teeth, but he can't tell the story if they are too noisey or too wiggly, so it has everything to do with their behavior. And he stays calm, doesn't shame or lecture. Just states it.

Your second example, the natural consequence of hitting is not just pain, but the other person may not trust you or want to play. That can be explained, but is hard to follow through on. But your second example is a good logical consequence. Actually leaving the play date might be unreasonable for a single hitting incident with very young children, but leaving the space, calming down, etc if fair. And if behavior is truely unappropriate, I would leave. I make sure they know what behavior is expected before the situation and then "We have to go now because you are choosing to do blank." No reprimands or shaming, just calm and firm.

So no, i don't think it is just semantics. Threats might look a lot like applied logical consequences but be too harsh, applied in an angry way, or empty words. check out positive discipline for the preschooler
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#3 of 15 Old 05-24-2007, 01:39 AM
 
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Yes, I second the PP.

I usually say... When you choose to continue to _____, then you are choosing to ______.

Kind of a variation of the when:then statements you can use for other situations.

For example: Uh oh, DS#2, when you choose to hit your friend with a toy train, then you are choosing to leave his house since we don't allow hitting. And if he hits again, I say DS#2, I'm sorry you chose to hit again! It's time for us to leave!

I try to do this so that it is instilled in my child that they are choosing their consequences...it's not something that's just arbitrarily forced upon them in some shoddy semblance of justice.
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#4 of 15 Old 05-24-2007, 10:51 AM
 
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I think the difference between threats and consequences is that threats are used to coerce the child, and are used to try to elicit a specific behavior (or prevent one), while consequences happen after the fact. This is most apparent with natural consequences, in which the consequence is totally dictated by the child's own actions (if you go outside without a coat, you will get cold). Threats are always imposed by the parents; consequences don't have to be.

I can see how stating the consequence for an action can look like a threat:
"If you do that again, we'll have to go home". But if the consequence makes sense - you are leaving because the child is no longer able to play appropriately - you are simply stating a fact. Threats tend to be more drastic than consequences - "if you do that again, we're never coming back here". For that reason, threats are sometimes difficult to carry out, because when the parent has cooled off, she realizes that she over-reacted.

I agree that tone of voice and attitude have a lot to do with the difference. In the same way a young child can understand that if she drops food from the high chair it wil fall to the ground (and if she's lucky, the dog will be waiting patiently for the treat!), she can learn that if she hits someone, she will be removed from the activity, or if she throws a toy, the toy will be removed. The more consistent you are enforcing those non-negotiable rules, the more quickly a child will learn them.

Multiple warnings only serve to teach the child that you don't really mean it the first, second or third time you say it. Particularly with a "persistant" child, I think it's important to be very firm with certain rules - the big ones, like hitting. One incident it enough. If you can be totally consistent with enforcing the big rules, she will figure out that you MEAN what you say, she will know that you are going to follow through, and she will listen the first time.

Hang in there!

If the chips are down, the buffalo is empty.

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#5 of 15 Old 05-24-2007, 10:52 AM
 
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Quote:
So, I guess the threat isn't GD, right? But, even adults don't understand consequences, right?
Right. A child needs more guidance than just informing them of the natural consequences of their actions.

In the tooth brushing example, it's important to discuss why we brush our teeth, in simple, age appropriate terms, make tooth brushing a consistent habit, and make it pleasant (telling a story while brushing, offering good-tasting tooth pastes and fun brushes).

When you threaten a child with a punishment if they don't brush their teeth, they will only be brushing their teeth to avoid the punishment, and they will probably be resentful about having to do it. It might even turn tooth brushing into a power struggle.

Quote:
I've read about not using threats and using consequences instead
I'd say, don't use threats, use gentle guidance instead

A great book that might be helpful is How To Talk so Kids Will Listen & Listen so Kids Will Talk by Faber and Mazlish. It gives very easy to follow examples of positive ways to engage cooperation.
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#6 of 15 Old 05-29-2007, 01:31 PM
 
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I recently read a terrific parenting book by Alfie Kohn entitled "Unconditional Parenting." The book was very enlightening.
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#7 of 15 Old 05-29-2007, 02:51 PM
 
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Because there is such a fine line between the two, I actually looked up threat in the dictionary:

Threat: a declaration of an intention or determination to inflict punishment, injury, etc., in retaliation for, or conditionally upon, some action or course; menace: He confessed under the threat of imprisonment.

There seems to be a much more negative, punitive connotation, huh? To me, a consequence is simply if you do A, then B will be the result. Like PP said, if you go out with no coat, you will be cold. Just cause and effect, not punishment for actions. For the teeth brushing, I usually say, "No breast until you brush." If that doesn't do it, I might get a little down and dirty and say, "Daniel, if you throw a fit, I will get very cranky, and I know you like me better when I'm happy."

So maybe the key for us is to be sure we are coming up with a logical this is what will happen result, and not a Don't make me . . . .
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#8 of 15 Old 05-29-2007, 02:55 PM
 
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Threats and "consequences" are the same thing: punishment. Very un-GD. Talk about feelings instead. Say: "When you hit Sara it hurts her." (instead of "if you don't stop hitting Sara we're going home."). Say: "When you let Sara have a turn with your doll I can see that it made her feel really happy." (instead of: "That was very nice of you.")

Obviously, if your child doesn't stop doing behaviors that are dangerous to himself or others (hitting, running in the street, etc) you have a responsibility to protect each child. You can say that "I can see that you are really feeling _____ (angry, frustrated, etc), but it isn't ok to hit other people. I can see that when you hit her Sara feels hurt and angry." Then you need to look past the behavior your child is exhibiting and find out what they are really trying to tell you and meet that need. Maybe they need time alone with you. Maybe they're hungry, or tired. Maybe they resent the fact that someone else wants to use their things, which, by the way is totally reasonable.

As a PP said, the book "Unconditional Parenting" by Alfie Kohn is excellent. So is "Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves", by Naomi Aldort.
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#9 of 15 Old 05-29-2007, 03:09 PM
 
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The problem with natural consequences is that sometimes they are too abstract or too distant in the future for children (and most adults too) So that's where logical consequences come in -- where the adult steps in to provide a consequence. But it must be relevant, reasonable, and respectful. So in the teeth brushing example - taking the bike away for not brushing would not be relevant. Forbiding candy for the next 5 years would not be reasonable. Saying anything with a loud, angry, shameful voice would not be respectful. In my book that's what turns a consequence into a threat. If you are not respectful or if you repeat yourself over and over without follow through -- that turns a consequence into a threat.
I agree with this concept. very well stated.

sometimes the real / natural consequence is "too far off" or even "too much" and kids who can not yet "see around the cornor" (as we call it) they have no meaning. or they are somehting (failing a grade, getting hit by a car) that a parent simply can not allow.

I know not all families agree -- but we enforce logical consequesnces -- as discribed by the quoted post. Matter of the factly states, relvant and consistent. and since both my sisters parents almost 100% like i do -- it is a very consistent reality for all our kids.

I think a lot has to do with the attidue and how things are stated.....are they presented in a matter of the fact way for the child ot learn from or not? "Timmy if you throw the block again you will be choosing for mom to put them away before someone gets hurt by a flying block" vs ""one more time and they are gone" -- the first helps Timmy learn WHY they have to be put away after being thrown, the 2nd does not. and it is not a power struggle or a game, or me vs Timmy.

GD is a spertum -- and where differnt families fall on it varies....but respect for the child is always at the forfront. AND your child personality has a LOT to do with what works, and what doesn't ...

Aimee + Scott = Theodore Roosevelt (11/05) and 23 months later Charles Abraham (10/07)....praying for a little sister; the search starts May 2014
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#10 of 15 Old 05-29-2007, 03:18 PM
 
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I hear what you are saying about addressing the feeling element, but what if the child doesn't seem to care how his actions are making someone else feel? I nanny for a boy who consistently hurts my DS, who is much, much smaller. I have said to him, "How do you think Daniel feels when you keep hurting him every day? How do you think it feels to Daniel when someone so much bigger and stronger hits him?" Truthfully, it only makes the boy feel cool that he is so tough. Sometimes he can't hold back the proud smirk. :

So to me, there has to be some logical consequence when he continues to hurt my little boy, and obviously we can't leave. If he just won't stop hurting him, I will eventually tell him that he has lost the priviledge of playing with him and now he has to go to his room and spend the rest of the afternoon alone, so he can't hurt anyone else.

Is that too harsh?
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#11 of 15 Old 05-29-2007, 03:49 PM
 
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i would start with he has to play alone, but not so much seperated as his room alone -- a differnt area, divivded by a sofa or something. And i would start for a shorter time.....

then you can "move up" if you have to -- moer alone playing time each time ... or whatever.

not so GD -- but better than allowing abuse and not as unGD as yelling, or ect could be.

there is no perfect solution, and we do not live in a perfect world. and at the end of it we still have to protect everyone too, YK?

i would phrase it more like this "see D you hit the little boy again, now he doesn't want to play with you..so you play on this side of the sofa and little boy is going to play on his side... in a few minutes will will ask little boy if he wants to play iwht you again" THAT way you are reinforceing that kids do not want to play with people who hurt them......that way it might help him learn more by "seeing" that his freinds do not want to play iwht him if he hits....

Aimee + Scott = Theodore Roosevelt (11/05) and 23 months later Charles Abraham (10/07)....praying for a little sister; the search starts May 2014
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#12 of 15 Old 05-29-2007, 04:04 PM
 
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Unfortunately, my DS is apparently not too bright. No matter how many times the big boy hurts him, he goes back for more. He loves him.

They wrestle or play chase or throw balls, and it quickly gets out of hand because the older boy is twice his size and has enough energy to fuel a small town. You know, the kind of kid who doesn't just enter a room, but BLASTS into it. DS wants to play with him, but because he only weighs 28 pounds to the bigger boy's 60, he gets creamed daily. So I'm saying, "Be careful. That's too rough. Be gentle. Okay, that's too much! Stop!" But by then, DS is crying. I keep waiting for the sickening sound of a broken bone one day.

Usually I'll break it up and make them do a quiet activity, like Play Doh, but within a few minutes, the big boy has figured out a way to fashion a weapon out of dough and whack him with it! That's about when he gets Solitary.
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#13 of 15 Old 05-29-2007, 04:14 PM
 
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well no one said that when you told him "DS doesn't want to get hit and play with you so he is going to play away from you" it had to be totally TRUE I think we have all told little white lies -- :

Aimee

Aimee + Scott = Theodore Roosevelt (11/05) and 23 months later Charles Abraham (10/07)....praying for a little sister; the search starts May 2014
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#14 of 15 Old 05-29-2007, 11:15 PM
 
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This is so apropos of our day today, right down to the block throwing! DD is 3.5yo and I am frequently unsure of myself in some grey area between respecting my child and not providing the guidance and structure she needs. Today was (I hope!) an unusual day of her really pushing limits and testing me. I know how natural and right it is for her to do it, but argh! The frustration:

Me: "Don't get in the tub with your clothes on"
Her: laughs hysterically and keeps trying to get in the tub fully clothed
Me: (in my head) <maybe I should let her get in the tub with her clothes on? Is it a big deal? Should I be picking this battle? Why do I have to have battles at all??>

repeat, ad infinitum, or until I lose my composure. Same thing with block throwing, but without the internal confusion about whether I should let her do it.

We got through both incidents (as well as a running-away-in-the-grocery-store episode and other more minor tussles throughout the day) but I am all riled up inside and didn't handle either of them as well as I wish I had. There was some yelling .

I am at a loss for how to STOP the wild stuff (block throwing, hurling herself into the tub) in midstream without resorting to trying to be louder and more forceful than she's being. It doesn't feel like there's time for explanations or calm deliberation when she's all flailing and hysterical giggling. I know it's not exactly like tackling her to get her out of the path of an oncoming truck, but it feels like it .
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#15 of 15 Old 05-29-2007, 11:43 PM
 
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i know -- 18 m old -- Theo gets sooooooooooooo wound up and giggly that i have to physcially grab him whereas in the same situation, not slap-happy, he'd follow a verbal "please don't pund the cell phone on teh driveway" or " please climb down carefully, do not jump"

Aimee + Scott = Theodore Roosevelt (11/05) and 23 months later Charles Abraham (10/07)....praying for a little sister; the search starts May 2014
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