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3 Times Natural Consequences Parenting Worked

Photograph by Twenty20

Half the battle in parenting is figuring out your discipline strategy. Sure, the time-out chair has merit with the toddler and preschool crowd, but what about when they are older? I have always tried to let my kids experience the natural consequences of their actions (within reason, obviously). Some parents think this is harsh, but it has worked great with my older kids—especially in these situations.

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I don't need a coat

If you have a tween or teen, you've lived this scenario multiple times. Cute outfits they have already posted on Instagram can't be covered with a coat. Duh. But here's the thing. Don't take a coat? You will be cold and take one next time. One year not too long ago we went to the annual Christmas parade downtown and my daughter—probably 14 at the time—was determined that she didn't need a coat. "It's pretty cold sweetie, you might be more comfortable with a coat," was met with an eye roll and a reply of, "I'm fine." The Christmas parade was fun as always, but it was damn cold. Can a 14-year-old survive two hours in 45 degree weather? Sure, when she huddles up next to her parents and sips hot chocolate. I would never have let a toddler make her own decision about a coat. But when my daughter went out to see Christmas lights with her friend the other night, she texted me, "Can I borrow your long coat?" Boom.

I forgot my homework

I might have been rocking in the corner and ready to run the binder over to school, but it was better that I stayed strong.

This was one of the hardest transitions for me to make when my kids moved into the upper grades in elementary school. The rush to get the kids up, dressed, fed, out the door and delivered to their classroom by 8:30 each morning always ran smoother when I was the captain. "Got your backpack? Lunchbox? Field trip permission slip?" was my daily mantra, and we rarely missed a deadline. But while this makes for a finely-tuned family machine it doesn't teach the kids to be responsible for their own success. So somewhere around third grade I started to ease off of the reminders.

The first few times one of the kids forgot their library book, they weren't allowed to check out a new book—which for my bookworms was torture. But the hardest time for me was when my son forgot his homework and asked me to bring it to him at school. Could I bring it? Of course I could. But in the long run it was better for him to have the conversation with his teacher and deal with the consequences. After this happened once, my kids rarely forgot anything for school again. I might have been rocking in the corner and ready to run the binder over to school, but it was better that I stayed strong.

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I really want it!

Who doesn't love a bit of spending money? When my kids were little, we would put a majority of their gift money into their savings account—which they are really happy about now that they are teens. We would take them to pick out a special toy or two, and save the rest. As they got older, we decided that money they earned or were gifted was really theirs to spend without our approval. For someone who is pretty frugal, this was hard for me at first. But what really sold me was remembering times in my life when I spent hard-earned money on something that either wound up being cheap (and breaking) or not as cool as I had originally thought. So I swallowed my comments and let my kids buy a few things that didn't really turn out to be awesome choices. Now that both have worked and earned an hourly wage they really understand the value of a dollar—and are less eager to buy all the things.

Is it hard for you to let your kids experience the consequences of their decisions?

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