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The Value of Consequences

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To spare their children hurt feelings and disappointment, some parents try to rescue them from bad choices and decisions. While such parents may think they are being kind to their children, such actions often hurt their children by delaying their maturity and understanding of responsibility.

For example, assume a little boy throws a ball and breaks a neighbor’s window. Hopefully, it was an accident rather than a deliberate act of vandalism. Either way, the boy should be held responsible for his actions.

Rather than excusing the child from the restoration process by saying that it was just an accident and taking care of the repairs themselves, wise parents will use this situation as a teaching opportunity. They will teach their son that he is responsible, that he will need to pay for (or at least help pay for or repair) the window and offer a sincere apology to the neighbor for the damage.

By having to work to earn money for the repair of the window and offering an apology, the boy learns moral behavior—to take responsibility for his actions. Children who never have these learning opportunities grow up with a sense of entitlement—that everyone else is there to serve them and that they have no responsibilities to others. Removing all consequences throughout a child’s life is a great way to prepare him or her for civil disobedience and going to jail. It’s also a sure recipe for parental heartache.

Important keys to allowing children to benefit through experiencing consequences include making sure the children are old enough to make decisions before they are given choices (another mistake often made by parents), making sure they are physically safe and then letting them know that making a mistake is not the end of the world. It’s something that everyone does and handling it responsibly is the important lesson.

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