Using consequences to calm the toddler chaos

Many a time, right in between the whirlwind of kicks, screams and meltdowns, if we have the courage to pause, we realise something. We realise it isn’t about bad behaviour, or that chocolate or a bad day. And when we see that it is about revising expectations we are able to help our child better. Read on for definite ways one can use consequences to calm the chaos.

Embrace the chaos

I know this is easier said than done, especially in the early years where the tantrums just start appearing. But it is so liberating to embrace the chaos and look at it as the ahaa moment in parenting.
Having a tantrum is a milestone, and when my child has a major meltdown with me, it only reinforces that she considers me her safe space to release all those big, scary feelings.
More importantly, how we handle ourselves and help them through the process teaches her about empathy, and paves the way for self-regulation ( a skill we adults struggle with at times, as well.)

Let us remove those label tinted glasses

Here is a fun exercise. Close your eyes and think about today. How many times did we subconsciously label our child- in our minds or out loud? Did we silently complain about how hyperactive he is when we caught him jumping on the sofa? Or did we tell her she is clumsy when she dropped her glass of water? Did we berate him for being selfish when he said he wouldn’t share? Perhaps, we  apologetically mumbled something about  her being shy when she wouldn’t say a hello to the neighbour? Did we congratulate her smugly on how smart she is when she finished the 50 piece puzzle on her own? 

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Trouble is, labels are detrimental and sometimes dangerous. They hold us back and set a rigid framework with which we judge and see the child. Humans are also dynamic, and keep re-inventing ourselves. I may be moody and withdrawn today, but may chat away to the dozen tomorrow. Having a label makes growth static– for the child’s behaviour as well as our perspective.

Every time we have the urge to discipline the child, ask yourself 3 questions
1. Is this a reasonable expectation of their age and temperament?
2. If yes, has the limit and consequence been established clearly?
3. If yes, am I willing to help my child learn accountability without labelling her?

If yes, let us discuss consequences.

Consequences vs Punishment

A consequence does not shame the child like punishment does. Instead, it teaches accountability and helps the child stay motivated intrinsically. It is also immediate and directly linked to the behaviour, making it logical and easy for the child to understand.

Natural vs Logical Consequences

Natural consequences are what are preferable because it has a sensible cause and effect and the adult is not needed to intervene at all. 
Example– the child refuses to eat- he will be hungry.
However, sometimes, natural consequences may take time to  be enforced or maybe harmful to the child. Sometimes, it may also involve others. In such cases, a logical consequence is what I turn towards to.

A logical consequence requires the adult to have set limits and established the consequence, preferably, with the collaboration of the child. In some cases, one may also need to explain to the child why the behaviour is hurtful and why accountability is needed.
For example: If V drops a glass and breaks it, the natural consequence is that she doesn’t have that glass to drink. But the logical consequence here is that she needs to clean it up.

The beauty of logical consequences is, that they can be modified as per the family philosophy, hpusehold rules and age of the child. They also pave the way for a lot of serious conversations with our children. Based on the most common messages received, here are some possible logical consequences for difficult situations.

A child throws toys- The toys are kept inside
Child refuses her nap – She would need to have an earlier bed time that night to compensate for sleep
The child hits another child- She would need to apologise and do something to make it right.
Usually, asking V, “what do you think we can do to make it better?” engages her higher brain and invariably we arrive at a solution together, in which she is eager to participate.

Role of the adult

When V drops the glass of water, “I just told you to be careful” is at the tip of my tongue. But accusing serves no purpose. It is essential that we work with the child.
When we enforce consequences, ensure that it comes from a place of empathy. Validate the child’s feelings and comfort the child without judgement, and then proceed to work on making the situation better.

After consistently following this the last couple of years, I can safely say that working with V has increased my ability to see beyond problems and look at solving them, in adult scenarios in my life as well. That is the beauty of children. Parenting them through tantrums has a long lasting ripple effect.

This post is a part of a collaborative effort from Ophira of EasyMommyLife and me. We hope, that these posts start a conversation, and every time we see our children push our buttons, we pause to consider if we need to revise expectations or use a logical consequence. We hope, new parents feel empowered enough to make the right choice and follow through, instead of a punishment.

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