Thursday, March 1, 2012


consequencesIn Rewards, Punishment and Consequences, ksquirkyteacher talks about a video she had to watch for professional development. Then she adds,

“To say that kids should never be punished or rewarded is ridiculous. That sends a clear message to the child that they can get away with anything. Adults have consequences and so should children, otherwise they are forming bad habits that will stay with them for life.”

When my own children were growing up, I had a really hard time with natural consequences. There would be battles over wearing a coat or hat, or many other trivial things. I know I am a control freak so allowing my children to suffer natural consequences was really hard for me. Then I had to think about what is the worst thing that could happen. When I put it in a different perspective, it really helped me let my kids suffer natural consequences. Then I stopped being the bad guy and they learned from their mistakes (usually, not always). Sometimes they had to suffer the consequences more than once.

As Ksquirkyteacher mentions, adults deal with this all the time and there usually isn’t someone out there to warn about the consequences. Hopefully the many things we learned as a child prepare us for the consequences so we can make better decisions.

The thing that helped me was to give my students choices and discuss the consequences beforehand. At the beginning this took more time than later on in the year because they heard the choices and consequences before.

An example using school work:

1. They can complete their work on time and enjoy recess.

2. They can refuse to do their work and do it during recess.

I don’t feel this is a punishment where I would be taking away their recess. Instead I feel that they are making the choice and accepting the consequence. The important part of this learning is the role of the teacher. The teacher must make sure that the consequence is followed or the student will not learn which behavior benefits the most.

As adults, I believe we go through the same process of looking at choices and consequences but we have done it for so long we take it for granted. We think that everyone goes through the same process. But if we don’t teach our students this process, they won’t have this skill to use as an adult. I believe this skill is important to be successful in life no matter what you do.

How do you deal with behavior and consequences? Please share.

Image: 'DSC01346'


Alex | Perfecting Dad said...

You're perfectly right about rewards and punishment, and consequences. As a teacher, you give those all the time anyway -- it's called feedback. If the child never got feedback then the child would never learn. It is totally natural. Punishment is a psychological term and one of the most highly valuable methods of teaching, it's just a stimulus that the child doesn't want.

In the case of say learning math, punishment might just be getting a problem incorrect and being told so. Some advocate that kids should never be put under the stress of being told they are wrong, but it is the quickest way (and in my opinion, the least painful long-term way) of learning. They say it's judging the child, but it's not. Children are smart enough to figure out that they actually did get the problem wrong, and if they are capable of getting it right, then they don't suffer psychological damage, they simply learn -- which is what we want anyway.

Your example of having children do their homework and being able to go to recess only after homework is done is perfect. You're not administering a punishment, it's just how the system works and it's self-punishing, just like a hot kettle self-punishes the person who tries to grab it by the sides.

loonyhiker said...

@Alex/Perfecting Dad Thanks so much for your comments. I'm glad that you thought I was on the right track! Thanks for reading my blog too!

Prudy Jo's Technology SpEd Blog said...

I agree with post by Perfect Dad.

I am a SpEd teacher and I use consequences in my classroom. A consequence is a good or bad reaction to an event. If my students do well on their school work, try hard, or give a nice complement to others they receive a sticker on their chart.

I try to focus on the positive consequences of an action. I do however have negative consequences that depend on the action of the student.

I have a few students who are on behavior plans. The plans would not work without rewards or punishments. The students understand, "Oh, I did what was asked of me. I receive a reward." or "I did not do what was asked of me. I have a punishment."
OF COURSE, these actions are gone over with the students. Each day I work one-on-one with students who have behavior plans. We talk about why he/she did what he/she did, both positive and negative reactions from the day.

Students will not learn without a positive or negative consequence. Just like an adult, we need consequences to know if what we did was correct or not.

loonyhiker said...

@Prudy Jo You are so right! Consequences can be either positive or negative. That is how we learn. If someone writes a bad check, there will definitely be negative consequences. If people work hard at their job, they will get a paycheck which is a positive consequence. Which would they rather do more often? (Hopefully the positive consequences will yield more results.) We are preparing our students for the real world with real consequences. Thanks for commenting and reading my blog!

Scott said...

I love using Natural Consequences when working with kids or adults for that matter. It gives them the ability to take responsibility for their own behaviors, even if they are not at the developmental level to understand the concept. I believe that there are so many children that come from homes where there is such a lack of consistency going on that they feed off of "power struggles" in the class room. So many teachers become burned out and overwhelmed that they subconsciously take away their own tools. They end up with a "I told you to do it now" concept and it causes a cycle of conflict for themselves and for the children in their class. So, if they will just focus on giving the children choices and having the consistent follow through, they will contain the Power Struggles and will be able to set up those teaching moments.

loonyhiker said...

@Scott I totally agree with you. Natural consequences is the best way to teach responsibility for our actions. As for power struggles, I don't think anyone comes out the winner in most of those situations. I confess to having these when my children were young and once I learned not to engage in the power struggles, life was much easier. Thanks for your comments and reading my blog!