Consequences

You should know this by now. I’ve asked you a hundred times. How could you forget? 

Today we are going to talk about consequences, punishment, and discipline. How do we raise kids to take ownership and care for themselves and their belongings? Today I’m going to give you some things to think about and some things to do. 

You should know this by now, I've asked you a hundred times, how could you forget today? We're going to talk about punishment and discipline and responsibility. How do we raise kids to take ownership and care for themselves and their belongings?

I'm going to give you some things to think about and some things to do. Hi, this is Denaye. I'm the founder of Simple Families. Simple Families is an online community for parents who are seeking a simpler and more intentional life. In this show, we focused on minimalism with kids, positive parenting, family wellness, and decreasing the mental load. My perspectives are based in my firsthand experience, raising kids, but also rooted in my PhD in child development. So you're going to hear conversations that are based in research, but more importantly, real life. Thanks for joining us. Thanks so much for tuning in today. We're talking about responsibility and consequences and discipline, a lot of big words with loaded meetings and just facing

Some of those moments where you feel like you want someone just to tell you what to do. So I'm going to do a little bit of that. I will tell you what I would do, but I'm also going to give you some things to think about some things to consider, because what's going on behind the scenes, in the difficult phases and moments with our kids, we often get caught up in this idea of what do we do? How should we react? How can we nip this in the bud? I think is the expression. I have these two pots with flowers right in front of my house. And as many of you know, I am terrible at gardening. I can't keep anything alive. Luckily I'm much better with humans than I am with plants, but I frequently walk out my front door and I see that my flowers are drooping. And my immediate reaction is to pour water on them. Because when I do, they perk up almost immediately and start to look better.

Then a few days later, they dry and start to look weathered and I pour some more water on them and they perk up and look better. What I'm doing in that moment, what needs to be done is the flowers need to be watered. And that action is important. I'm not going to undermine that, but what also needs to be done is the soil needs to be nurtured. It needs to be fertilized. That's something that's less obvious because it often takes more time to see the benefits of it. We don't get that immediate return on investment. When we fertilize our flowers on our plants, we kind of just put it in there and hope that it does the trick. And then we wait. So we undervalue the importance of nurturing the soil and we just keep pouring water on every day. That will absolutely keep the flowers alive, but if we can water the flowers and nurture the soil, we're going to have much better outcomes.

Now I'm talking totally outside of my areas of competence, but I would venture to say that if we nurture and fertilize, the soil appropriately, that our flowers are going to be stronger and they're going to be more resilient. They're not just gonna grow, but they're gonna grow and really flourish. So Denaye, where are you going with this metaphor here? So often we spend so much time focusing on the water, what we need to do in the moment that we don't pay attention to what's going on behind the scenes, the nurturing and the connecting and the lessons that we're teaching without even knowing it. So whenever it comes to growing flowers or growing kids, we need to do both. We need to be providing for and addressing their needs in the moment, but also recognizing the importance of some of the behind the scenes stuff that's going on to the stuff that's really going to help our kids thrive and flourish.

Even if we don't see the results today, I often say on the podcast, you're doing better than you know. And what I mean by that is you're nurturing the soil. Even if you don't always say the right thing or handle the behavior in the moment, the way that you want to, you're getting a lot of other things, right? You're connecting with your kids. You're spending time with them. You're loving them. You're responding to them. You're teaching them. You're really nurturing the soil, whether you realize it or not. And because of that, almost always, you're doing better than, you know. So I got a question from my friend, Rochelle, and this is what she said.Denaye my husband wants you to tell me how to raise a responsible ten-year-old with just three weeks left of school. He's lost his school issued iPad, his drumsticks and his band book.

Obviously we're not going to be paying for replacements for him. He's going to be doing that himself beyond natural consequences, like paying for it all and missing recess. We're coming to class unprepared. I just don't think consequences are going to do it. Yes, Rochelle, you're totally right. Consequences are not going to do it because the behaviors are describing are not willful disobedience, their skill deficits. As so many of our kids, quote, unquote, misbehaviors are consequences are going to be like pouring water out the flowers. You're going to feel like you're doing something in the moment, kids going to keep growing, but there's a good probability that this will be like a rinse and repeat. You'll be coming back to this over and over again, with the same behavior and the same consequences and the same behavior in the same consequences, but really raising a responsible and competent kid is going to be more than just missing recess and getting grounded or having privileges taken away.

We have to start by allowing ourselves to redefine some of these words that have come to define parenting like consequences and discipline. Now, some people say, you know, I'm raising my kids the way that I was raised, it worked for me. It'll work for them. Who were we to redefine these words? Well, the words discipline and consequences have changed over generations and in large part because the field of child development and psychology has immensely changed over the past 50 years. In fact, 50 or so years ago, these fields barely existed. We know so much more today about the impacts of parenting and child rearing than we ever knew in the past.

And that new information, that new research helps to guide us and lead us to new ways and new definitions, child development and psychology is really no different than any other field in science. And that we're constantly improving upon it. At one point we thought the world was flat and then we discovered it wasn't we once thought cigarettes were fine. And now we know that they're not as these fields grow in science. And in research, we learn more about ourselves and about our brains and about our bodies and about our world and the way that we interact with our brains and our bodies and our world changed. 50 years ago, we didn't know that styrofoam was bad for the environment, but now we do. So now we're consuming styrofoam differently. So let's start with the word consequence. The word consequence often has negative implications. When it comes to parenting, like you're going to get a consequence.

It generally means punished what the word consequences really means is there's a result or an outcome that happens as a result of a behavior. So a behavior happens if it's an undesirable behavior, what's the consequence. The consequence might be that the kid has to miss recess or loses out on their allowance. But what if the consequence was that as a result of this behavior, you realize that there's a skill deficit, that they're not behaving this way to tick you off or to frustrate you, but they just don't know a better way. They need to learn. They need to build new skills. So many difficult behaviors in childhood are really signs of skill deficits. So for me, when I see an undesirable behavior in my kids, the consequence is I become aware of a skill deficit. I figure out what they need to learn. What do I need to teach them not how do I need to punish them? Because punishment doesn't teach. It tells us what not to do.

You might at first glance, feel inclined to say, I'm going to punish you for losing the drum sticks because you need to stop forgetting. Sure, but it's not that we want our kids to stop forgetting the drumsticks it's that we want them to start remembering the drumsticks. There's a difference there. When we say you get a punishment, so you'll stop forgetting. We can punish a kid to stop forgetting their drumsticks by taking away their allowance, making them pay for it, taking away recess. Or we can see that there's a skill deficit and that they need help. Remembering we can work with them to come up with a checklist, talk through expectations, start labeling things. So if they do get lost, do they get returned to you?

And notice the wins. It's easy to stay focused on the things that go wrong. It's harder to notice the things that go, right? So a consequence is a result or an action that comes out of a behavior. It doesn't have to be a punishment. Sometimes it's just the awareness that a new skill needs to be taught. Now, discipline is sometimes used interchangeably with consequence. Discipline means to teach our kids naturally want to succeed and do well, but sometimes they need more help. Some kids need more help than others. They are a work in progress. We are a work in progress. They're not always going to get it right. We are not always going to get it right. I think about last year I dropped and broke my iPad screen and I was really upset about it. I didn't need a punishment and I got it fixed. And two weeks ago, my husband put it in the washing machine and completely demolished it. So now my iPad is out of commission for the second time.

No, those were the adults in these circumstances who were, I guess you could say irresponsible, if you want to use that word, I would say imperfect, but had my kids done this? Had my kids shattered my iPad twice in a year? I could have easily gone down this hole of thinking, I'm raising your responsible kids. What am I doing? Where have I gone wrong? So just remind yourselves that we're raising kids to be human. Not, unfaltering not perfect. They're going to make mistakes. They're going to forget things. Some kids more than others. It's not always a character flaw. It's not always something that needs to be fixed, but when it comes to our kids, sometimes the consequence is us noticing a skill deficit and helping to collaborate, to teach. That's the nurturing of the soil. That is what is going to improve of a growth trajectory.

We're going to pause for a 60s word from today's sponsor. And when we come back, I'll talk about putting this into practice. The sponsor for today is Sunday. Now I know I've been talking a lot about growing stuff in this podcast, using it as metaphor, but now we're actually talking about growing stuff. Sunday is a lawn care service, and they make taking care of your lawn easier than ever. I love that the ingredients are natural, but the simplicity of it all is really the biggest win for me. I just went to sunday.com put in my home address and their free lawn analysis tool took care of the rest. Much easier than me going down to the local big box store and staring at the thousands of options available. So don't get stuck in a place of overwhelm and decision fatigue this year, when you're trying to take care of your lawn, let Sunday take the guesswork out of growing in greener more beautiful yard visit. getsunday.com/families to get $20 off your custom lawn plan at checkout. That's $20 off your custom plan, go to getsunday.com/families.

All right. So what do we actually do? How do we put this into practice? How do we water the flowers and nurture the soil? When it comes to our kids, we first need to remember that all of our kids learn at different paces. They grow in their own ways. So if you find yourself using phrases, like you should know this by now, or I've asked you a million times, or why can't you just do this or that you may need to take a look within and re-evaluate some of your expectations. Maybe you say an eight year old should be able to shower themselves and get themselves ready for school alone in the morning. But if your eight year old is not doing those things saying things like you should know this by now, or why can't you just do this by yourself are not going to be helpful.

In fact, they're probably going to be shameful. We have to meet kids where they're at. That means we have to look at the skills that they have available to them at that moment, the things that they're actually doing right now and capable of doing not things we think that they should be doing, not things that we think that they're old enough to know by now you're old enough to keep track of your drumsticks and your band book and your iPad. It's easy to assume those things, but again, we have to meet them where they're at, not where we think they should be at a lot of struggles like this really come from a lack or a deficit in executive functioning skills. And I talk about executive functioning skills, a lot on the podcast because they impact so many of the behavior struggles that we have with our kids.

Executive functioning skills are the mental skills that we use to pay attention and to organize and plan and manage time and get started on tasks. And as our kids grow, those skills grow too. But some kids need extra help in developing those skills. You're frustrated with a 12 year old that won't get started on their homework. They're probably struggling with initiating a task, which is an executive functioning skill, struggling with a six-year-old, who you tell to get dressed and you find them rolling around in their bed. Instead, they may be struggling with sustained attention. They went into their room for a reason, but they forgot what it was. And they're struggling to execute the task as a result, or if they seem to keep forgetting things, losing things, they may be struggling with organization. Also an executive functioning skill. The development of these executive functioning skills can lag for many different reasons. Sometimes it's due to neurodiversity. You may have a kid with a brain that is wired and growing differently. Executive functioning challenges are very common in kids with ADHD, dyslexia, autism, but executive functioning skills can absolutely lag in typically developing kids too. But the good news is they can also be improved. Skills can be taught. If you have a kid that's struggling with organization, task initiation, time management, planning, and prioritizing.

I think we need to start by looking at ourselves and our own functioning skills. If we are lacking strong executive functioning skills, and we have a hard time in these areas, our children may struggle because of they haven't had a good model. We might need to learn together with them. This might be a collaborative process of building these skills together. And I think there's something really empowering about that. Recognizing that these things are hard for you too. And you want to learn right along with them. You need to learn right along with them, or you might be someone with very strong executive functioning skills. That's me. I have very strong executive functioning skills and the result is I actually overdo it for the other people in my family. I have a tendency to do the planning and the prioritizing and the prompting to get started on tasks and the organizing.

I have a tendency to just do it all for them, and that takes away opportunities for them to do it themselves. I have to think that it's easier to do these things myself and it often is easier, but I'm very aware of my tendency to use all my strong executive functioning skills on behalf of everyone around me. And when I do that, I take away opportunities for my family to grow their own executive functioning skills. I'm someone who can keep lists in my head. I can go to the grocery store and have a list of things that I'm checking off mentally. But my husband is someone who really needs to write everything down. So I sent him to target last week, he's gonna kill me for sharing this story. I sent him to target last week because we literally didn't have a single piece of toilet paper in our house.

We were completely out. And so he went to target after the kids, went to bed to get toilet paper. And he came back with like three or four bags of stuff. None of which were toilet paper. They were things that we needed, but definitely not the primary reason that he went to the store. What I've learned about him as time has gone on is that I can't just name off things that I need. I have to write them down, or I have to make sure that he's writing them down as I'm saying them, if I want him to remember them. But this experience brought to light an additional skill that I think would really be helpful. Not only does he need to make a list to go into the store with, but he needs to recheck that list when he leaves the store to make sure that he got everything on the list.

So while I could have been irritated and upset and shameful that I sent him to the store for toilet paper and he got everything, but toilet paper, instead, I'm trying to think about, well, how can I use some of my strong executive functioning skills to teach? And we talked about it and reviewing the list, going into the store, along with reviewing the list, going out of the store. It's something that could make a huge difference. So he doesn't come home with everything, but the things that we need. So this is an example of the consequence being, what's the missing skill, what needs to be taught? How do we troubleshoot and problem solve, not shame, punishment, irritation, although I'll be honest. Some of those things naturally come out in the process too. Research has shown us that our kids executive functioning skills are lagging in general, and it's likely due to less unstructured play.

Our kids are over-scheduled. Parents are micro-managing their kids. They're doing everything for them. And as a result, taking away opportunities for kids to do things for themselves. So pay attention. If this is you, how can you start to phase yourself out? And if you are someone that struggles with executive functioning skills, how can you learn and improve upon your own, maybe even do it collaboratively with your kids. So going back to Rochelle's example about losing the drumsticks and the iPad and the band book, here's what I would do in the moment. Here's the watering of the flowers.

I would say it looks like you're having a hard time staying organized and you're forgetting things. You lost your drumsticks and your band book, which sounds like you're having a hard time in band. Let's focus right there. What happens at the end of band class? Do you have to rush off to get to soccer practice ? Is your best friend they're making jokes and distracting you? Tell me about what's happening when you're packing up your stuff at the end of band class. In that example, I'm breaking it down, looking at one area, specifically, trying to figure out what he could do differently to help him strategize, to collaborate with him, to listen to his idea on how he can manage his time and organize things differently. And then maybe even suggesting a couple of my own, I would also collaborate on what should we do now?

I know Rochelle, your inclination is just to make him pay for everything, but depending on how your kids earn money, I mean, my kids allowance is really, really low. It would take them months to pay for this kind of thing, an iPad. It would take years. If so, we don't want to overwhelm that either. And I think it's perfectly reasonable to collaborate, to pay, to replace these things. So you pay for a percentage and your kid pays for a percentage out of their allowance. So they do feel a little bit of what it's like to lose money and have to replace things that you really don't want to have to pay for. But at the same time, it doesn't feel overwhelming and daunting like six months from now, your kid is still going to be paying off this one incident. So trying to be reasonable, finding a balance there.

And I think coming at that, with this collaborative approach is going to make your kid feel like you're there to work together with them. You want to help them not to skip punitive with them, not just punish them, not just shame them. So yes, I do think taking a portion of their allowance is a good idea. If they do get a regular allowance or earn money from birthday money, that sort of thing, but being reasonable, we want them to be able to pick themselves up and try again and do better the next time. So that's what I would do in the moment, but how would I fertilize the soil? And by that, I mean, what sort of things would I be doing concurrently while not expecting an immediate improvement or an immediate outcome? I would use a lot of self-talk thinking aloud to illustrate my own process on organizing my stuff.

So in the morning when I pack up my purse to get out the door, I out loud say, all right, I have my wallet. I have my phone, I have my chapstick and my water bottle ready. So saying that aloud, thinking my process out loud helps kids develop those mental processes too. Does those don't always come naturally. So increase your think aloud. So your kids can hear you work through your own process and also praise success and notice the little wins when your kids do remember stuff. When they do keep their stuff organized, notice it out loud, mention it to them. That helps to build their own confidence and helps them to feel successful. But it also helps you to stay focused on the fact that your kid's not perfect, but they do do a lot of things, right? They are going to make mistakes.

They're going to forget things. They're going to lose things. They're human, but noticing the wins, noticing the small successes is going to give you empathy is going to help you to stay calm in those hard moments. Like when you find out that they lost and when you find out something, you've told them a hundred times, they seem to have forgotten. So punishment doesn't teach often are kids. Most frustrating behaviors are related to skill, deficits, and noticing that can give us a lot of empathy and can empower us to teach our kids. I hope you've enjoyed this episode today. If you have take a screenshot of yourself, listening to it and post it up to your Instagram stories, make sure you tag me. I would love to hear from you as always. Thanks for tuning in. I'll talk with you next week.

Denaye Barahona

Dr. Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She partners with families to tackle the challenges of raising children. Denaye is a minimalist who claims to be a decluttering expert (don't let her near your closet). She loves to travel, talk health-and-wellness, and give unsolicited advice. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, The Minimalists, Motherly, Becoming Minimalist, and numerous other media outlets. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Clinical Social Worker with a specialty in child and family practice.