Punishment vs. Consequence

The way I would like to describe a consequence, is that it is simply what happens after an action.

So, every action has a consequence. It can be good or it can be bad. If you don’t wear sunblock, you may get sunburnt and the consequence is that you’ll have painful burning, red skin. This is not necessarily a punishment, but it is directly related to your action.

This comes down to the discipline within your household.

Hold a family meeting and discuss within your family what is acceptable behavior and what is unacceptable behaviour. Make sure it is crystal clear what the difference is between the two.

Lay out the consequences for the unacceptable behavior and hold your child responsible for their actions. Acceptable behavior has consequences too, more seen as a reward or fun.

If you drop a pebble in water, you can watch the ripple effect the pebble has on the water. This ripple effect can help you explain to your child that actions have consequences.

After a consequence has been enforced the next step is to, in a quiet and mindful moment, analyse and talk about what happened and why the child acted the way they did. Acting out in anger/sadness/frustration is a secondary emotion; underneath this lies fear and sadness. It is your job as a parent to reflect and figure out what your child may be sad about or what they may be fearing that is resulting in this explosive behavior. Below you can find a Behavior Reflections sheet to help you in this moment of reflection.

Our formula to successful discipline within the household:

Speak once

Give a warning

Enforce the consequence

Behavior reflection

REMEMBER: A punishment is something that hurts a child and the child learns nothing from the punishment. A child learns from consequences. They learn the difference between right and wrong and that they should be held responsible for their actions.