How to Encourage Discipline in Children: Principle #9c

We have been discussing ways for caregivers of children to set boundaries and manage behaviors that need to be changed. In my last post, I discussed parameters for time-outs. Caregivers can also create something similar to a time-out with a to “count to three” technique. As it sounds, the caregiver counts to three, during which time the child is expected to comply or agree when a consequence is given.

Count to three discipline and consequence strategy

Using the count to three discipline strategy
An alternative to a time-out is the count to three strategy.

This count to three discipline strategy gives the child a warning and a chance to avoid being placed in a time-out. It is a way for caregivers to bypass getting into ongoing, repetitive and nagging about rules that children already know. As long as this strategy is used with positive approaches, it can be helpful to control inappropriate behavior.

Principle #9 is about selecting consequences and letting the child know ahead of time what they will be when rules are broken. We have come to realize in using this principle that allowing children to experience natural and logical consequences of their actions helps them understand the reasons for limits that are imposed. It can also encourage internalization of the rules as a result.

Motivation for the child to behave is derived from his own experience

The effectiveness of this strategy comes from the fact that motivation for good behavior comes from the child’s personal experience. If a child chooses not to eat lunch, then the child will be very hungry until receiving the next meal. This is a natural and logical consequence.

Natural vs. logical consequences

Sometimes, children need to be protected from the natural consequences of an action, such as running across a busy street or putting their hands on a hot stove. In these cases, logical consequences may be used instead of natural ones.

Logical consequences are established by the caregiver as a direct and logical consequence of the child’s behavior. For example, a child who runs outside without permission must stay inside for the rest of the day. Or, a child who refuses to pick up toys has the toys removed out of reach for a period of time. It is important for the child to see the link between the consequence and the behavior as this makes the consequence and the rule/limit seem more acceptable and understandable.

It can be challenging to come up with good logical consequences. Caregivers can use a variety of ideas and share their ideas with other parents and caregivers to learn what has worked and what hasn’t. Sometimes children will help with this by indicating how much they dislike certain consequences, which usually means parents have been effective in the choice of logical consequences.

Caregivers who are intentional about this strategy will be giving their children the most effective ways to understand the consequences of their behavior (natural or logical ). As a result, this can really help children find ways to self-regulate and control disruptive or even destructive behavior. It is one of the most important disciplinary issues that we can discuss and implement with our children.

Gerry Vassar,  President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

Information taken from Pathways to Competence, Sarah Landy, p. 408-411

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