One of my favorite parts of homeschooling is talking to other homeschooling parents about their parenting/educational philosophies. I especially enjoy interacting with those parents who get me to question my beliefs(you know who you are!) One parenting belief that I've had is that of "natural consequences". Examples: Bring in your bike or it will get rusty if left in the rain. Finish your work or you can't play when the neighborhood kids get home. Clean up your toys or they will go away for a day. You get the idea. But are these really natural consequences? And, more importantly, does imposing natural consequences on your children create an environment in which children feel safe and thrive? I don't have the answers (boy, do I not have the answers!) but I wanted to throw out a couple of paragraphs from a book I've been reading for discussion. The book is Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves by Naomi Aldort. She states on pp. 172-174,
"Gentle ways of controlling fool both the parent and the child. A child who cooperates with consequences, a time-out, or any variation of such measures with ease or even smiles is too insecure to voice her hurt and often out of touch with her own feelings. She must believe that her parents are doing the right thing and so she concludes that her sense of wrongness is a mistake not to be trusted.
Even what some parents call "natural" consequences is mostly parent-imposed and therefore causes the same harm and mistrust as punishment. If it is natural, it occurs on its own. For example, a father told me that the "natural" consequence of his son not finishing his chores is that he will not go to his friend's house, as he now must stay home and do his chores. However, if a child was expected to wash dishes and didn't , the only natural consequence is that the dishes are dirty. Canceling his play date is a punishment imposed by the parent against the child's will. The child will fear such punishment like any other. To test validity of this observation ask yourself how you would feel if your spouse told you that since you didn't mow the lawn like you planned, you now must do it and skip your yoga class.
You may choose to skip yoga, and the child who neglected the dishes may choose, after you express your feelings, to wash the dishes before going over to his friend's; however, such choices must come from respectful communication of the people involved and based on their authentic preferences. . .
In our most desperate moments, we need to recall that fear-inducing disciplinary measures lead to fear-based compliance, not thriving children. Since what we are striving for can be achieved with dignity, there is no need to fall back on old methods that hurt the child, violate his autonomy, and damage your relationship with him. When your child feels safe to be himself, he will act with competence, not in order to please you but because he wants to succeed. He will be considerate and kind not because he fears you but because he loves you."
What do you think?