Yesterday we went to the North Shore beaches. I suggested that the girls bring a change of clothes so that they wouldn’t have to ride back in their wet suits, but both girls fought me on that point, and chose not to put their clean clothes in the bag when asked. Rather than entering into a power struggle or rescuing them by bringing their clothes for them, I chose to have them learn responsibility via Natural Consequences.
When the time came to leave the beach both girls had suits full of sand and we had a long trip home. The “Natural Consequence” of their choice was to ride home in discomfort.
Now the caveat here is that of course we don’t want our children to be uncomfortable or to suffer- ever. Truth be told, I felt a little uneasy about this situation, but, I did not want to get into another fight over this issue or have to continue to ask them over and over to bring their clothes. I also knew that they weren’t “learning” from me “telling” them (over and over), but could learn from the results of their choices.
Not easy to do sometimes, but if you choose to try this out (try it!) here are some other things that can help you and them work through these choices:
- Show empathy. Empathy while they are learning is always a good option. It helps support them through the process, no matter how tough it might be… “That sand must be uncomfortable.” Also have empathy with yourself- you’re not a bad parent because your child is learning in this way..
- Avoid lectures (even though you may want to, hold back!) it isn’t going to help and can breed resentment, thus removing the learning and shifting the focus to the negative feelings.
- Be comforting, but don’t rescue. Again, if you rescue at this point it can negate the learning. “You can take a warm shower when we get back.”
- Validate their feelings about it, which helps them get in touch with their feelings. “I’d be frustrated too.”