The Gift of Consequences

christmas mom photo

Photo by Veronica Foale

During the holiday season, it seems that gifts are always on my mind. Gifts for those less-fortunate. Gifts for co-op and music teachers. Gifts to take to parties and get-togethers. Gifts for extended family.  And of course, gifts for my children. 🙂 But as every parent knows, some of the best gifts are the intangible ones. This month, our family has been learning about the gift of consequences.

I’ll admit it; disciplining children is not one of my strengths as a mom. But we’ve seemed to make it through okay; these days, their misbehavior usually entails whining or complaining about something I’ve asked them to do. It’s at those times I catch myself asking them again and again to follow through. If (and when) they ignore me, I continue to ask until I become frustrated and angry. Then the time bomb they know as Mom goes off, and the kids seem genuinely surprised by the punishments they receive. A little time passes, they cry or act remorseful, and Mom gives them a second chance. ‘Cause we all need second chances, right?

I liked to think I was a good mom, giving my children those second chances. Second chances to make good decisions. Second chances to make the right choices. Second chances to have a good day.

But while second chances are important, I’ve come to realize they’re not always what they’re cracked up to be. While we hope our kids are learning from the second chances we give them, I’ve found that letting them deal with the consequences of their choices usually has a more lasting impact. If they choose to act in a certain way, then they choose the consequence. If they don’t like the consequence, then they must change their behavior.

Holding children accountable for their actions, no matter how seemingly inconsequential, prepares them for adulthood. Life doesn’t always offer us second chances. A poor decision can lead to difficult situations that can last a lifetime.

So this season, I’m working on giving my children a new kind of gift – the gift of consequences — the gift that will teach them to consider more carefully their words and actions and hopefully make better choices. It will be worth even more than that giant Lego set someday. 🙂

How have your children benefited from the gift of consequences?

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