Newton’s third law of motion is:
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. For many, the opportunity to live without consequences would be wonderful.
But of course, this not reality. Reality is constantly giving us feedback about our behavior: a phone call from the gas company that we have not made a payment, a promotion for hard work on a project, a ticket for parking in the wrong spot. This is the way life is.
Interestingly, many parents and caregivers break up this natural feedback loop for their children. These well intentioned people run interference for the child, so that they never have to live with the consequences of their actions. When parents do this, children realizes it does not matter how they behave.
We must allow children to experience the consequences of their behavior. A consequence is defined simply as “the natural outcomes of behavior”. Consequences teach a valuable lesson: we make a choice or we do not, either way there is an impact. Logical consequences teach children that there is an equal reaction to every action and in turn they gain some very valuable feedback about their behavior.
If we fail to exercise and eat well, the consequence is that we will gain weight and possible experience greater health problems as we age. We can have wonderful intentions to exercise daily, or avoid high fat foods, but in the end, reality does not care about our intentions. Our intentions don’t keep us from gaining weight; healthy eating and exercise do. The same is true for children: they either do their homework, practice piano or speak politely or they do not.
Following through with consequences for children allows them to experience the repercussions for all of their behavior and in turn teaches them take ownership and responsibility for their choices. Teaching children responsibility is not easy. It is, in fact so challenging, that many teachers and parents opt not to do it. Instead, they choose options that are often short sighted and easy. Unfortunately, it is the children who suffer.
Children need to have successful experiences with self-control and consistent effort to become responsible adults. Wellbeing does not come from easy indulgence, but from the sense of being in control of life by personal effort and being the master of one’s fate. Difficulties in life are related to problems with impulse control or self-regulation. This is a central component of many psychological disorders from alcoholism to drug abuse to gambling to pornography addiction.