Parenting Through Logical Consequences
Rudolf Dreikurs, M.D, was an Adlerian psychiatrist who fostered the concept of using logical consequences in parenting. He believed that all behavior is purposeful, and that effective parenting involves allowing children to experience the consequences of their own behavior.
My own parenting mantra is, never do for a child what he can do for himself. When parents overfunction and care-take for their children, they render them helpless. In such cases, the parent's expectations are born out of their need to fulfill their own personal desires, not those of their child. Such expectations held by parents are more likely to foster a sense of personal disappointment than fulfillment.
Parenting involves assisting and encouraging children to ultimately learn to lead their own life. This process is called individuation. It calls for a parenting process that puts the onus of responsibility for appropriate, fulfilling behavior on the child.
I can still remember my mother fixing us our early morning breakfast. Everything was laid out for me including the cereal and spoon. All I had to do was chew my food. With this caretaking pattern well established in our household by my mother, I learned very early in life that there was a payoff for acting helpless. Mom would always be there to do for me even in the times she resented it. It wasn't until I left for college that I fully realized my total lack of self-reliance and self-confidence.
Good parenting involves teaching children that there are consequences for a lack of follow-through. When children are doing poorly in a class at school and parents attempt to change the instructional environment, they are ignoring the use of logical consequences. When a child calls his mother from school because he forgot his lunch or project, the mother teaches the child dependency by bailing him out. When a parent wakes a child from sleep without teaching him how to use an alarm clock, he teaches his child to be manipulative. Poor parenting also occurs when a father or mother provides a child with an allowance without any expectations regarding household responsibilities.
Here are some parenting guidelines to assist in fostering logical consequences for your child:
- Build mutually respectful involvement with your child.
- Set appropriate limits and boundaries for your child. Learn to say no and mean it!
- Don't get caught up in your child's reactions to logical consequences. Detach yourself from his temper tantrums. For example, if he carries on about not liking what you are making for dinner, tell him to make his own.
- Never try to discuss consequences with your children after they are established. Tell your child that the consequences not negotiable and are not open for explanation.
- Use logical consequences, rather than punishment. For example, if you are a teacher and a child disrupts your class, have a private place in the room where he can go until he makes a commitment to behave appropriately. Punishment, i.e. yelling or sending the child to the office tends to create power struggles and may cause you to lose a sense of respect and control in the eyes of the child.
- Never let a child off the hook. Don't make excuses or accept excuses for inappropriate behavior. Allow your child to experience the natural consequences from misbehavior.
Parenting is an art. But with the use of logical consequences as a parenting technique, your child will learn to develop self-confidence and responsibility for his behavior.
James P. Krehbiel is a licensed professional counselor, nationally certified cognitive-behavioral therapist in private practice in Scottsdale, Arizona, and a regular contributor to FamilyResource.com. He can be reached at (480) 664-6665 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.