Why Natural Consequences Don’t Always Work

I recently read a parenting article talking about how, as a mom, I should stop doing certain things for my kids. I liked the article and may have even shared it. As I thought of two of my children while reading it, I said, “Yes! Of course that makes so much sense”. But as I thought of my third child I felt my hesitation about the advice I received. Most of that advice would NEVER work for him because he needs to be taught in a systematic and cognitive way specific skills that other kids learn intuitively. For example, although many middle schoolers are messy, my middle schooler is messy and unorganized. However, he has a desire to be tidy and organized. The more I allow him to learn from his mistakes of unorganization, the more frustrated he gets which results in the more unorganized he gets. Eventually, he gives up all hope of ever being organized and this unorganization carries over from his binder, to his room, then his brain, and finally his emotions. It will affect him in every way. But if I (or another adult) offer an organizational method in a slow and systematic way, he learns it. Once he learns it without prompting or cues, he uses it. And while it may not be the way I envisioned it in my head, he uses it in a way that makes sense to him. Now he is ready to learn from the mistake of not using it. This process can take a week, a month, a quarter, or even a full year. No matter how long it takes, it’s important to realize what skills we can step away from and which ones need to be taught slowly and systematically which will give our children chances for more success.  

With Appreciation,