When talking about consequences and punishment while discussing effective parenting, these terms often are used interchangeably. However, there is a specific verbal and practical difference.
What Is Punishment?
Punishment attributes physical, emotional, and psychological pain to a child when he behaves in a specific way. It is meant to coerce the child to behave in a specific way, especially the way parents approve, and to make the decisions they want.
Punishment is a form of enforcing your laws, maintaining control, and taking away from your child the authority to decide for himself.
Punishments are a sort of acting out the anger and fear and hardly impose positive reinforcement to correct and groom the child. Punishment not only affects the relationship between parents and child, but it also takes away the sense of responsibility from the kid.
What Are Consequences?
Consequence is a form of teaching kids the right thing to do. Using logical consequences as a sort of teaching maintains a sense of accountability, acceptance of responsibility, and safety among the kids. It shows them that actions are always followed by imposed consequences, either positive or negative.
Consequences vs. Punishment:
Parents need to understand that allowing natural consequences while teaching their kids is the wisest thing to do. So instead of using punishment for bad behaviors, using consequences seems more effective as children can typically see what can be the outcome of their actions.
A consequence involves direct action of someone’s behavior. Most of the time, the consequences are given to teach the lesson and portray the correct way of making choices. It makes the person think and self-evaluate about his actions, choices, and decisions.
And most importantly, it develops a sense of self-control and self-discipline. Most of the time, parents use punishment so their child may develop self-control and doesn’t repeat the same mistakes. But experimentally, a consequence is more effective in this regard.
The child learns self-control more effectively through a logical consequence rather than punishment because, over time, they get immune to punishment. And then at some point under certain circumstances, giving punishment no longer works. The mindset matters. The true mindset behind a consequence is always self-evaluation and raising the sense of responsibility in a child.
So we can conclude that punishment is meant to control while consequence is meant to teach.
Punishment Is Not the Solution:
Whenever a child acts bad or loud, the most traditional way parents could think of to correct the child’s behavior is punishment. However, it is never the solution.
It affects the relationship:
Punishment always builds an emotional barrier between parents and the children. It makes it hard for the kid to trust and love anyone unconditionally. They try to maintain a distance from their parents to avoid any clinginess around them and to avoid any future abuse or the child’s self-esteem getting hurt.
Punishment is a temporary solution:
Well, punishment may control a child’s behavior for some time but it doesn’t help reinforce positive behavior in the long run. Parents need to understand that giving effective consequences that encourage self-examination is the best way to raise a child.
It may backfire:
Punishment never works, and in certain conditions, it usually backfires. As we know, it is given in anger and when children show anger in return, it results in chaos, conflict, and physical abuse.
It may result in revenge:
As a result of using punishment as a form of grooming the kid, the child develops a sense of taking revenge. They can’t see themselves always held accountable for every action and hence their emotions are set into motion when they find the opportunity. Punishment sets a fire of revenge while effective consequences make the kid responsible and accountable for his unwanted behavior.
What Is the Best Way to Use Consequences for Effective Parenting?
Consequences can be portrayed in many ways. Experts have compiled two ways through which maximum positive results can be inferred. One is “Observe and Describe,” and the second is implementing the appropriate consequence.
Observe and Describe:
It’s the initial stage of judging the situation. Instead of getting angry in the moment, try observing your kid’s behavior, how he acts in the situation and then try explaining his behavior in words.
Many parents don’t observe the words and emotions of their kids, just listen to the tone, child’s actions, and body language and start punishing or abusing the child. If you want to raise the kid through effective parenting and make him work on his negative behaviors to be a good human and decision-maker, you need to control your anger when the matter is being discussed.
Instead, observe the situation, facial expressions, the kid’s body language, words, and behavior.
Then try explaining the situation in a very rightful manner to get a hold of it in that second. For example, your kid is getting angry if you don’t allow him to play outside in the rain. Tell him, “Right now it’s raining outside, and you get sick when you play in the rain in this weather. Plus, you’ll ruin your clothes.”
If he doesn’t listen and starts misbehaving, ask him again calmly, “Don’t ask me if you can go outside again.”
Implementing the Consequences:
There is a reaction to every action. The kid also needs to experience the consequences of his misbehaving with his parents but in a very calm, quiet, and thoughtful manner so he also learns something from the situation.
Most of the time, kids get angry when parents say no to something. For example, your kid asks too much about playing outside in the rain and when you say no, he throws a vase and breaks it. in such kind of situation, most parents ground their kids.
Instead of simply grounding them, provide consequences for their behavior. Say “I know you were upset about me not letting you play outside in the rain. But it was for your safety. When you can’t get what you ask for, throwing a vase is not the way of getting it. Now, as a consequence, you can’t play outside for the next few days. And if you want to act in a good manner, I’ll give you another treat later in the day.”
By this effective talk, the child will get to know that as a result of his misbehaving and throwing the vase, he can’t play outside for the rest of the week. He’ll realize that it was the consequence of his actions and behavior.
Teaching them through the consequences shows them the cause and effect of their actions. They get to know that they need to control their behaviors and make rightful decisions. Punishment always provokes negative behavior and anger among the kids.
In addition to negative consequences, giving positive consequences is equally important. That would highlight the importance of portraying the consequences of actions.
Experts suggest using positive consequences even more frequently as compared to negative consequences. Using this strategy, practice efficient parenting, make your child responsible and a noble human, facilitate secure attachment, and heal the strains left in your relationship.
What Are Natural Consequences?
Natural consequences involve teaching your kid the result of his actions without any adult interference. So without the parents or any adult’s intervention, kids experience the natural consequences of their actions from a young age. It helps better their decision-making ability.
Many parents don’t let their kids experience the natural consequence of their actions, as it may hurt them. But the truth is, life is harder than a natural consequence of a toddler’s whining action. Parents should let them know about how harsh life can get, and teach them the ways they can make it through every step by experiencing minimum natural consequences.
Let’s try understanding the importance of letting the kid experience natural consequences through an example. I will take the same example I quoted above.
If your child wants to go outside to play while raining. To make him experience the natural consequence of his decision, say “Yes” and let him play outside.
What will happen? He’ll get all wet and dirty or may get cold. But he experienced the natural consequence of his decision rather than imposed consequences, and next time he thinks about it, he’ll not fuss over this issue and will avoid playing outside. Children learn this way fast.
I hope you got a clear view of the difference between consequences and punishment. Consequences make a kid responsible, and he accepts himself accountable for any wrong deed he does. While punishment can only make him feel bad about these behaviors and actions.
In our society, parents and teachers don’t know the difference between consequences and punishment. They think giving punishment teaches children, but it rarely does. Punishment causes unwanted behavior, while implementing logical consequences helps children accept responsibility and the development of their personality.