I was in another team meeting the other day discussing the significant behaviour challenges of one of my 11 year old clients.
The behaviour therapist was asking the child’s Mom about the consequences that she gives her son for these behaviours.
Long story short, the answer was none.
The behaviour therapist leaned a little forward in her chair and shared these words of wisdom: “You know consequences really shape behaviour.”
She then went on to explain how children need consequences and need to know what the consequences are, so they can make better choices by thinking about the consequences.
I totally agree with her line of thinking. I am a firm believer in consequences. Natural consequences are often the best. I don’t like the word “punishment” as that implies that someone else is doing something to you. “Consequence” is the natural fall out of doing something or not doing something.
I guess her statement hit me, as I have been struggling with the idea of consequences recently.
I mean, I can tell my kids there are consequences to their actions and they will have to live with the consequences etc. and I believe it.
But do I really think about the consequences to MY actions now? Do I really believe that certain consequences will happen, and does that really shape my behaviour now? The natural fall out of the things I do now might have consequences on me and my family later – but do I give that enough weight? Or do I just go with what feels right now?
What about the consequences of others that end up falling on me, or my kids? How do you deal with the natural consequences from other people’s decisions? Do you try to compensate or make up for the consequences that other people get or give? Do you become victim to them? Do you fight them?
I’ll give you an example with what I am struggling with.
It goes back to divorce (oh my, everything can go back to divorce).
When I divorced, I stayed in my neighborhood. My ex CHOSE to move to a different neighborhood. It was purely his decision and at the time I was happy not to see him around my hood. But, I knew that eventually, him living away would be a pain as my kids got older.
Fast forward a few years later and he has moved multiple times, but each time to neighborhoods that are not super close by. In his most recent move I mentioned to him that he might consider a neighborhood that was a bit closer to us as the kids would be getting older and wanting more independence, wanting to be with their friends more, closer to school for activities etc.
Now, I know I have no say in where he lives. He obviously chose to live where he chose to live. But, sure enough, I curse where he lives when I sit in traffic every Friday night to bring the boys out to him (luckily I only do it once per week – he does it multiple times) and he is starting to feel the frustration too because the boys are starting to complain more, and need to be at activities earlier and later so not living around the corner becomes a bigger challenge. So, the consequences of his choice, are ones that we all have to endure.
It’s the exact same situation for Rob’s kids as their Mom lives in a different neighbourhood too. So on “her days”, they don’t get to hang around with their friends after school, they have to endure the back and forth driving, they have to be picked up at times (sometimes leaving school early) to accommodate a driving schedule. And it makes me crazy when they hear how much gas it takes to drive them around to all the places they want to go that are near their school neighbourhood (which is our neighbourhood). You spend the gas because you chose to live where you chose to live!
I know these are petty little examples, but they keep coming up!
And this bugs me. It bugs me that someone else makes choices that affect our lives or the lives of our children. It bugs me that sometimes I will “warn” my kids or someone else about the inevitable consequences and they make the choice anyways and then come to me to try to fix it. Or come to me to try to make it better or to compensate for it.
And trust me, I know that I make choices too where other people have to pick up the slack, or my kids pay the price. We all do. I guess it is part of “life is not always fair.” (But today, I’m pouring my heart out about what bugs me – but I did want to acknowledge that I recognize that someone else may be complaining about me!)
I know this is a bit of a whiny post, but I question what to do in some cases? Do you just say “I told you so” to the other party and let them suck it up and deal with whatever consequences they have? Or do you try to make it better for them by compensating and fixing things? Will they learn if you compensate? Is it your place to make sure they learn?
If I warn you: if you eat that, you will be sick – do I stay up all night comforting your aching belly? If I warn you: if you don’t save your money, you will have no money to spend – do I pay for things when you have no money at a later date? If I warn you that: that kid is going to hurt you, do I seek revenge on them with you when they do hurt you or feel sorry for you?
Where do you draw the line between letting consequences play out naturally, versus being a safety net for someone? Where do you draw the line between compensating for someone else’s choices, or smiling and saying “karma”?
Just a little something I have been struggling with.