Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Behaivor vs. Consequence

Some of you know I'm currently working on an AA in Early Childhood Education. I really have no desire to become a standard public school teacher at any point, it was honestly just a whimsical choice at the beginning of my studies. It seems that whatever guided me down this path was spot on. Though not for the purpose of educating the masses, the curriculum is helping me discover things about homeschooling and parenting that I had learned but forgotten over the stressful years of schooling, single parenting and birthing many, many kids.

One of the lessons I have re-learned is the value of behaivor versus consequence and the rationalizations of a young mind. Some of you may know this, it might be new to others, and yet still, some may be like me and have learned it but lost the knowledge.

Consequences have no value if they are not directly related to the behaivor.

Read that again.

Absorb it.

Read it a third time if you need to. I did.

I can't tell you how many times I've been at the end of my rope disciplining my kids. I get so frustrated and angry that behaivor correcting becomes reduced to harsh punishment that doesn't correlate to the unacceptable actions. I'm not perfect and that's okay, only if I strive to be better.

Many times I've sent the kids to be early, put them in time out, or taken away privedges based on behaivor I didn't take the time to understand. How can a young mind rationalize that the punishment for not cleaning their rooms when asked becomes early bedtimes? The room is still a mess, going to bed has nothing to do with messy play. And by the time we're done arguing and yelling over their lack of obedience the kids are crying, I'm angry and neither is a good way to form relationships with others. The work will be there in the morning and the consequence if they are still not cleaning will be something dramatically different at nine a.m.

How can a child understand what is expected of them if they haven't been taught? A dog is obedient, a child is not. Yelling and screaming only pushes the young mind to detatch from the present. Long drawn out discussions (which is usually just the parent talking) have them zoning out even if you get a head nod at the appropriate time. A child doesn't learn to obey, they learn to live in a socially acceptable way with those around them based on self control not parental control.

Applying the proper consequence to an undesireable behaivor links the two together in a child's mind. Consistentcy in consequences is another key to helping children understand what is acceptable and what is not. As is realistic parent expectations. These are based on the emotional and physical skill level of the child which you can find information on based on age. These standards can help you determine what is acceptable for you to expect at any given developmental stage and to curb your unrealistic expecations to their level.

The younger the child, the more immediate the consequences should be. Telling a three year old that because they stayed up too late at night last night and therefore needs to go to bed earlier tonight creates confusion and will most likely result in a difficult bedtime. There is too far a space between behaivor and consequence. Though an eight year old might be able to rationalize that consequence.

The goal of consequence (which can be negative or positive) is to create an environment where unacceptable behaivors are undesireable to the child based on experiences that reinforce positive social behaivors. Not based on fear.

Did you get that? They're not based on fear.

Physical or emotional abuse might get your child to respond but they'll be looking for loop-holes. They'll continue the behaivor if they think they can get away with it. There is no inner desire to control behaivor other than fear of punishment which is a whole nother blog post and completely different from consequence.

Punishment and Consequence are not the same.

These past few days I've been really taking a look at how I respond to behaivor in my kids. It's hard to always be patient, loving and kind when I am tired, frazzled and busy. The few additional moments it will take me to properly redirect and apply consequences for undesireable behaivor will save me time later on when they are at a maturity level that has higer self-control.

I urge you to look at your parenting skills and see if there is an area you could brush up on. Becoming parents didn't have our brains automatically downloading The Good Parent Handbook and life can sometimes get in the way of knowledge we've previously accumulated.

Parenting is a full time job, we need to keep current on our skills, recognize when we've lapsed and work towards being the loving, caring parents we know we can be. Remember, we're raising people that will someday be parents themselves our jobs here are crucial.