You've probably heard plenty of parenting advice that says the use of consequences is an effective discipline tool. But in order for consequences to impact your child's behavior, you need to introduce them at the right time and in the right way.
The use of consequences is especially effective in the early elementary years when children are just beginning to understand cause and effect. They are able to grasp that a certain behavior will lead to a certain result and start to want more control over the choices they make.
There are two kinds of consequences: imposed and natural. Imposed consequences are those you dole out: Friends can't come over until homework is done. Natural consequences are those that logically result from an action: Not doing homework will lead to a poor grade. Either one can help your child learn than his behavior has repercussions. Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, authors of Boundaries with Kids (Zondervan), call this the Law of Sowing and Reaping: "[Consequences] teach children self-control (Gal.5:23)?one of the most basic lessons in life. Choose to do your chores, you play. Choose to avoid your chores, you pay."
The use of consequences not only helps guide your child's behavior, it offers some surprising fringe benefits as well. For example:
Consequences encourage rational decision making. Your child will learn that there are good consequences for wise decisions and unfortunate consequences for poor choices. Your child may dawdle in the morning leaving little time for breakfast. As a result, he's hungry until lunchtime. It won't take long for your child to start making other choices based on projected results.1