Attitude Shift: Harnessing the Power of Intention
Reason: Conflict offers the opportunity to teach
Discipline Skill: Consequences Power: Intention
2. Rewards & Punishments
o Problem Solving
All mistakes are opportunities to learn if we just see them as such.
Be willing to make mistakes and have the courage to learn from them.
Rewards & Punishments
A common tactic that adults use with children is the rewards
and punishments system. This is where a parent judges the
child’s behavior as “good” or “bad’ and then hands out
something good or bad to express that judgement.
Think about this as an adult – say that tomorrow we are scheduled to perform heart surgery
on a patient. Before the operation we are told “if you do not succeed the patient will die and
then we will repo your car; but if you do succeed the patient will survive and you will get a
new car!” How does a car come into play to help us exhibit the best skills we have to
perform the procedure? It doesn’t help especially because most of us are not equipped to
perform heart surgery in the first place. But this is how punishments and rewards are handed
out day in and day out.
What is missing from these situations is the importance of learning new skills through the
consequences that help the child reflect on their behavior and in what ways they can be
driven to do things differently next time. Remember Encouragement and how humans all
have an innate desire to be helpful and involved? What if they don’t want to watch TV, eat
dessert or care about a surprise?
Science shows that when we impose a punishment or reward preemptively it sends stress
signals to the brain that initiates the survival state – immediately limiting skills that we
already have and now are unable to access them because of the state that we are in.
So that leads into the intention behind the consequence and where the focus of attention is
– blame to induce guilt and shame or reflection, responsibility, and learning?
The Power of Intention recognizes that mistakes and conflict are opportunities to teach and
learn, not punish. Remember, to learn we must feel safe physically and emotionally. Our job
as the parents is to be the “safekeeper” creating an environment where children feel safe to
make a mistake.
The intent that we choose determines whether we punish, save, control, or teach children
after a mistake has occurred. It is difficult to make a shift from punishing to teaching when
we have the mindset that all mistakes are punishable offenses or that conflict is bad. With
that view we may even strive to avoid conflicts and prevent mistakes from happening.
Let’s shift the view to viewing mistakes as opportunities to learn and conflict as an
opportunity for children to learn how to set healthy boundaries. Tiring as teaching is, it will
pay off tenfold as our children get older and can face hard moments with grace. If we set the
intention to view these instances as learning moments for our children, we bolster our self-
respect as well as help children maintain their self-worth. We can teach children to feel and
say “Oops! I am still wonderful. Now let’s learn!” We must be able to believe this and model
it before our kids can.
Being able mess up and say “Oops...” is important because it allows us to:
1. Recognize our mistake, “Oops”
2. Owning the mistake and knowing that it has no impact
on our self-worth – “I am still wonderful”
3. Learning a new skill or try a different way – “Now let’s learn”
Making the shift to view moments of upset in a different light from “how can I make them
pay for what they have done” to an intention of “how can I help this child succeed?” is
essential to have the next section of consequences work.
Some common assumptions and judgments to view differently:
• Disobedience is linked to disrespectful
o I.e. Child has a messy room and didn’t pick up when asked opposed to the
child got distracted by toys or friends and their room is still messy. How can
we help them to succeed?
• “Bad guy” and “victim” who gets the punishment aka “who started it?” opposed
to “here is an opportunity to teach”
• Humiliating fit out in public just to embarrass me or be a brat when “no” doesn’t go
over well. Opposed to seeing the child as overwhelmed by the emotions of being
disappointed and in need of coaching through the emotion and a more helpful
response for in the future.
• Child is being defiant
o Child doesn’t want to take a bath opposed to the child would prefer to play.
How can we work together to reach the end goal? Threats or positive
Our intention is coaching these young learners to set respectful limits and teach others how
to they want to be treated through healthy boundaries and relationships. What a great gift
The reason that consequences come as the last tool is not because it is the least important;
it’s that all the other tools and skills needed to be in place so that effective consequences
could be possible. Implementing this new way of approaching children, relationships and the
world takes an adjustment to rewire our brains from how we were raised and how we have
been parenting our children, thus far.
A consequence is a behavior that has an impact on others or ourselves that we can reflect
on then choose a different strategy for next time. Being able to learn from a consequence of
our actions takes two things:
1. We must reflect on our actions in relation to our long-term goal .
a. Is eating the whole bag of chips while binging on Netflix going to get the weight
off we want to loose? Or is the child throwing their sippy cup across the table
going to help them to get more milk?
2. We must take ownership of the choices we make and the feelings that come with them.
a. Feeling disappointed that our weight goal has been delayed by the choices we
made. Or the child felt angry that there was no milk in his cup.
These examples show us how we can be motivated to do something different to reach our
goal. After seeing the scale and feeling the tight pants we are motivated to stick to the
healthy eating plan. After the child feels angry and disappointed about no milk and now no
cup, they are motivated to learn “more please” as a new skill to ask for a drink.
It can feel uncomfortable to see children have the feelings that come with the consequences
of their choices. That is where we come in with authentic empathy to help them manage
their emotions so that they are then able to access current skills and learn new ones. In
conscious discipline there are 3 types of consequences: natural, logical, & imposed.
These consequences are the cause-and-effect type of consequence – if we do or don’t do x
then y will happen. This is where we as parents permit mistakes to happen often as long as
they are safe. The intention here is that we allow children to try and fail in a physically and
emotionally safe environment so they can learn form their mistakes. Our job is to provide is
to follow up with empathy and problem-solving vs preventing, saving or belittling. For
example, the natural consequences of the child who insists on not wearing the snow pants
outside may be that they are limited to where they get to play on the playground or will feel
the discomfort of wet pants for the rest of the day. A child who experiences disappointment
after repeatedly throwing the toy on the ground and does not get to play with that toy
anymore when it breaks.
Take a deep breath because these examples are hard for some of us but essential to the
learning process. Our role is to allow the discomfort so that they are motivated to do it
differently next time. Do not prevent the discomfort; be prepared to greet the discomfort
when it surfaces with empathy first and then some problem solving.
Natural consequences are the most powerful and effective and best to use whenever we
can. When natural consequences are not possible then we use logical consequences.
Logical consequences only work when the child has shown repeatedly that they know how
to preform the skill and feel connected. f they are not able to do it most of the time then
they are not ready to have logical consequences. They need more of the assertive
commands. Children that have damaged relationships or are disconnected (very in their own world) need to be
connected with often for consequences to be effective. Before handing
out a consequence check in on the relationship.
Related: Make sure the consequence is related to the child’s behavior. If the goal is keeping
the blocks off the floor, then the related consequences would be for the blocks to be off
limits for a period of time, not for the child to lose dessert.
Respectful: The consequence is respectful in terms of the consequence itself and the way it
is delivered. Not using punitive, humiliation or aggressive in the process of imposing the
Reasonable: The consequence is reasonable, meaning it is something the child can do, and
makes sense in terms of severity and duration. Avoid empty threat like “give it to me now or
you will never play on my phone again!” or “Alright, bye I’m leaving” These undermine our
purpose and can lead to overly harsh consequences.
Empathy: When children blow it – and they will blow it – follow through on the consequence
with a good dose of empathy. Consequences followed by empathy result in reflection,
ownership of the action and change. Avoid lectures of “I told you so” or “what did you think
was going to happen” this can undermine the effectiveness of the consequences and cause
power struggles. Remember to describe what you are seeing when they are upset and to
help them calm or lead them to a place that will help them feel comfort until they are able to
move forward with a loving “what can you learn?” mentality. Avoid passivity and aggressive
*If you feel you are often giving logical consequences without seeing progress that is an
indicator of needing to rebuild connection in the relationship and that the skill expected
needs to be clarified. First use connection-building activities and make sure you see the child
being successful using the skill before applying logical consequences. Refer back to
Assertiveness and Encouragement to build up the skill set.
Problem Solving as a Consequence:
Problem solving is the process of recognizing a missing skill and teaching it in a way that
children are able to hear and learn. I allows the children to become apart of the solution. This
skill requires all of the skills we have learned about in Conscious Discipline and operate from
an Executive State.
We are our children’s safekeeper. When children start screaming, back talking, saying hurtful
things, throwing fits, threatening or generally freaking out it is our job to keep it safe. Is it
safe to scream back? Drag them to their room for time out? Telling them what a horrible
awful embarrassment they are? Threatening them that we will leave them or send them to
Papas? None of these things are safe. Safety and connection are what is needed.
Pause – Actively Calm – Help them to Actively Calm, Describe, Name, Acknowledge, use
Empathy, Choices, Commands and then Problem solving can come into play.
There is a structure that can help in teaching these conflict resolution skills between others
to learn helpful new behaviors.
Let’s Do It – Think
Express the “I don’t like it when.... Next time please...”
“Okay, I can do that”
In littles teaching the STOP hand where they put their hand up next to their own body and
stay STOP will help to teach them to have power with their words and signal to the parent
that they need to come over and 1) encourage the child 2) Teach the skills necessary.
What Now? ------- Commit
Whenever a conflict arises, breathe deeply and remind yourself, “Conflict is an opportunity
to teach and learn”
Focus on responding to the conflict rather than trying to eliminate it.
When conflict occurs ask yourself:
o “What is my intent here?”
o “Do I intent to make my child feel bad and pay for his crime?”
o “Do I want to teach my child to reflect on his choices, change
them, and develop new skills?”
Break down mistakes and conflicts in yourself and in your children:
• What choice was made?
• What was the result of that choice?
• How did that choice and result of that choice feel?
• Was the desired outcome met?
• What new strategies might be better next time?
Allow mistakes and conflict then:
• Give guidance through, limits, possible outcomes, and choices
• Allow the child to experience the consequence
• Model Self Control
• Offer empathy
• Help them problem solve for a different way next time
• Use the three R’s and Empathy when imposing logical consequences
o Related to behavior
o Respectful consequence and delivery
o Reasonable to the behavior and age of
the child (Calm before delivering)
Sources: Easy to Love Difficult to Discipline and Conscious Discipline Parenting Curriculum, Becky Bailey