Parenting Without Punishment

Oh yes you can.

Photo by Sai de Silva on Unsplash

But don’t stop reading here, just because you despise permissive parents.

I don’t apply that word to myself, and I don’t think you would either, if you had seen my son and me in action. What I believe works best, in trying to shape a tiny human into an adept social creature, is natural consequences.

What are natural consequences?

Natural consequences are what actually happen in life when we make bad choices. And consequences are not punishments. Punishments are stuff we make up to deter an action. Natural consequences are what naturally follow an action. Try this little thought experiment.

Photo by Markus Spisk on Unsplash

I’m not suggesting we let children do whatever they want and let the world teach them the lesson, if and only if they are caught.

That’s how criminals are created. Instead, think of the outcome of a behavior and help them understand the consequences that follow those behaviors. If a toddler throws things across the room, they have to be the ones to pick them up. Or maybe you tell him ahead of time that if he throws his toys, you will put them away until he can play with them without hurting anybody or the toys. Even though you are intervening here, throwing things when he is grown is likely to lead to their loss when he goes to jail for domestic violence. Better to learn the easier way.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash


I always answered my son’s “why” questions. One way for the child to understand what natural consequences can follow, is to explain why we want them to do or not do something. When I worked in a school, and asked kids why they weren’t supposed to run in the halls, they didn’t know. I told them it was so they wouldn’t get hurt in case someone opened a door suddenly and they ran into it. That made sense to them.

Psychotherapist, Hypnotherapist. Leans Left. Mindfulness practitioner before it was cool. LPC, M.Ed.

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