Dara Explains Natural Consequences

Note from Hermana Linda: Pam continues to ask thought provoking questions about how one can raise children without spanking. In This comment, she asks,

What do you mean by natural consequences? I think some of those are what I hoped for my children to avoid and why I view some punishment as a necessary part of discipline. Am I misunderstanding?

Dara Stoltzfus answered her question so well, I have asked her to reproduce her comment here. (Dara, I think I speak for everyone when I say, please don’t apologize for your many insightful words. )

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Hi, Pam!!!
I feel funny just butting into this conversation but Steph’s asked me to come over here and maybe share a story or two! And, this might sound weird, but, just from reading what all you’ve written I feel like I like you. 🙂 And, I feel like I completely relate to your concerns. For me I spanked “for 20 years.” I had one 21 year old and 4 kids under 8 at the time when I saw online that the “rod” spoken of in the Bible was a weapon used on predators. If that’s what it is…if it’s for the predators and not the sheep that changes EVERY verse I’d ever thought I knew about spanking! So, we stopped! That day! It was like you could hear the tires screeching and see smoke flying as we skidded to a stop!! 🙂

And, to be honest I was completely helpless! I had no idea what to do! And, I really feel like for a year…at least…I just did nothing! Just stood by wishing I could threaten or give a spanking and without that one tool I had nothing. I would open my mouth to say, “Stop that or else!” and I had to stop mid-sentence all the time! So, when you ask what you can do if you don’t punish…I totally understand where you’re coming from. I seriously had a fried brain for a year over it 😉

I have just a few things to say I guess! You said, “What do you mean by natural consequences? I think some of those are what I hoped for my children to avoid and why I view some punishment as a necessary part of discipline. Am I misunderstanding?”

I think in a way you almost answer the question with some of what you said. Punishments do interfere with children learning the “natural consequences” of their choices. “Natural consequences” in the physical world we understand that we do “x” and something will fall or burn or whatever. Basically it’s just “cause and effect.” Those are natural physical consequences and in order to safely navigate the world we live in it’s necessary for kids to know these things. In the spiritual realm…it is very similar in that our children (and we all) need to fully comprehend what the natural consequences of our choices are in order to not sin. When we err in the physical realm we “mess something up” but when we err in the spiritual realm we call those “mess-ups” sin.

And, I think that too often our effort to shield our kids from the natural consequences interferes with the really important lessons they need to learn. Like…say…you n’ I are really close friends and I come to your house and my child steals something from you. You and I understand that this is going to strain your relationship with me. It’s going to make you mistrust my child. If you’ve been close to the child it will make you feel violated, betrayed, and hurt. The natural consequence of that child’s actions are that you are hurt and all of the relationships involved are damaged.

The Bible tell us that “your sin has made a separation between you and your God” and that “hell” is eternal separation from God. We’re also told that “we’ve been given the ministry of reconciliation.” And, science tells us that we are social creatures. Not only do individual brain cells “die” if they are in isolation from other brain cells but our brains “die” if we’re left all alone. Isolation brings us death. Health relationships bring us life. God came to give us LIFE more abundantly…and He did that thru forgiveness…

So, the natural consequence of my child’s action would be “death” in our relationship. Jesus died to give us life and health and reconciliation in our relationships. How do I get THAT message across to my child? And, how do I show my child how to handle “being” offended and hurt AND how to fix offending and hurting someone?

If I always approach my child’s bad choices with “punishment” the child…when caught…will first, foremost, and only fear what’s coming to them. They will focus on the fear of that punishment. Their focus after their transgression will be on the pain that they are going to suffer…alone. Their focus will be on themselves. They will miss the true consequence of their actions. They may learn by repetition and by fear of severe punishment that “stealing is wrong and bad” but what they really need to learn is “why” it is bad. And, the “why” takes time…closeness…talking…and results in them learning empathy or the capacity to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.

If they’re too young and immature to really understand the true natural consequences, they likewise are too young to be “punishing” for it anyway.

“Stealing” is just one example…but if you sit down and try to think of all the different things we could punish kids for…all the offenses that they can do to inspire a punishment really do boil down to disrupting some sort of relationship.

Back in 2010…my 8 year old hit his 6 year old sister. They were all about to head out the door to go play soccer at the youth center. My husband was taking the lead role in dealing with the situation and I was just sorta’ watching. My husband said to my son, “And, you’re NOT going tonight!” And, I watched then something that really sold me on the “not punishing” thing. What we wanted Josh to LEARN was that “hitting his sister is bad” and WHY. But, as my husband was explaining to him that it was bad because his little sister looks up to him and trust and loves him and it hurts her and their relationship for him to hit her…I watched as my son’s focus left my husband and went inward. His breathing became more rapid and his eyes were not focusing on my husband anymore. I could see that he was beside himself over his own grief and pain now that he couldn’t go along and play soccer. He was not hearing a word my husband said! I said, “Wait! Wait! Stop! Time out! You lost him! You have to take it back and let him go to soccer because you lost him.” My husband trusted me and agreed and told Josh he’d changed his mind and could go…And, I again watched as his breathing slowed…and his eyes again focused on what my husband was trying to tell him.

I’m convinced that the focus on “self” that punishment necessarily causes just ruins the lessons that the natural (God designed) consequences are there to teach us.

Now, I do get what you’re saying that sometimes we punish because we want to spare the children the “natural consequence.” We want them to understand that the hot stove can BURN them so we smack their hand. But…smacking their hand is not the only way to teach them not to touch the stove. It’s not like we either have to punish or let “nature take its course!” 🙂 What I’ve actually done with the stove is turn it on and let them touch it when it’s “warm.” Explain to them that it gets HOT and can hurt badly and show them what the burner looks like when it gets that hot. They also can be “close” to it and feel the heat coming off of it. I find that when I take the time to do that (particularly with my 7 year old) that they really almost feel love and loving after these lessons. A lot of times I get a hug from my kids after such a lesson. If I’d simply smack their hands I’d get a kid cowering and pulling away from me.

And, if they’re too young to be reasoned with…they’re too young to really be allowed to be making the choice of whether or not to touch that stove and that’s when we have to do “environment control” and “baby proof” or “kid proof” the house. And, I think that’s really key. If they’re too young to reason with, you control the environment not the child. And, once they’re old enough to reason with that’s what you use. And, if you do that well their whole life…they won’t be a danger to society. They’ll understand the value of human relationships, have empathy, comprehend how their actions affect their relationship with God, and will not be the type to have run-ins with the law because they will fear the “natural consequences” of the actions that lead people there.

They won’t drink and drive because they’ll be fully aware of how painful an accident would be to all involved. They won’t get into bar fights because they will be aware of all the hurt it can do to the people involved…including the person who pays the bills for the bar. They won’t drive recklessly because they’ll be aware of the potential harm of the natural consequences. They won’t cheat on their spouse because they would be aware of all the hurt and damage that’d do to them, their kids, and the other family and God. They won’t even cheat on their taxes because they’ll know that whatever they do “to the least of these” they’re doing to Jesus and that that applies to everything. The won’t want to hurt anyone…not even God.

That’s what I feel like I’ve learned since I’ve gone from being punitive…to now trying my best to “disciple” my kids instead!!!

SORRY that one lesson I haven’t learned is how to say anything in few words. 🙂

About DaraSKS
Mom of 8...

Comments

  1. Pam says:

    Hi Linda, Thank you for writing this and don’t worry about too many words, I’m rather verbose myself. I think we women understand what we are learning, by communicating with another. As I read your post, I was struck by how much alike we are in our method of parenting. I was a teaching parent and I am a teaching grandma. I believe in connecting with kids and including them in whatever I’m doing when they are around. I was never the kind of mom who spanked my children every time they did something that displeased me and then sent them to their room so, I could be alone and have some peace and quiet. Some parents raise their children as if they are in a war with them and I’m not that kind of parent. I spanked my oldest son more than the younger one because I didn’t know to do anything else but it wasn’t long before I was seeking other methods because I could see right away that I didn’t want to rely on just spanking. I didn’t spank my youngest very much at all. The older one was more dificult when he was younger but was a wonderful teenager. The youngest was a joy as a young child but he had a rough time as a teenager. The older one is compliant and the younger one noncompliant. What I wished I’d understood sooner was that when the Bible talks about training up a child in the way they should go, I believe now, that includes discerning their individual traits and tailoring their discipline to enhance their strengths and minimize their faults. I was taught that it meant raising them to be a Christian. Now, I know that only Jesus can raise a Christian. There is a lot of trial and error when it comes to parenting, for most of us. I’m a child abuse survivor so, I really had to think about everything I did as a parent. There was nothing pre-programmed that I could rely on. Still, I made a lot of mistakes and even created some dysfunction of my own. I think everyone does. There are no perfect parents or perfect children but I’m proud of the men my sons are and I’m happy to still have them as part of my daily life. We all love one another and work through our problems. I think that attitude of love and honesty has done more to influence who my children grew up to be than any method of discipline I employed. It is the attitude that has kept us as a strong family through many tough times.

    There are parents who love their children and spank them as part of their discipline program. I understand wanting to find better methods but I think what I quibble with is calling all parents who spank abusive. It may be an outmoded form of discipline but not all parents who spank do so in an abusive manner. I want to protect children from abuse but I also, want to protect families and give all families a chance to work through their problems.Also, every child is different and loving, involved parents know better what their child needs, than anyone else. When the government steps in, many children find themselves in much worse situations than they were taken from. People who prey on children use the system to obtain children and most people have no idea how few rights family members have in helping the child they love when the government has taken over. We need to be careful what we label as abuse. There are not a few people who think it is abusive to raise children in a religious environment or home school. We have to allow room for parents to make the choices God leads them to make.

    I’m sure some of you have had a hard time with other believers who have strict, old fashioned beliefs about discipline. Some of them are horrible and they do need to change. Spanking may even be one of those traditions that does need to change but still, we have to be careful how we label each other. My parents never took on their full responsibilities, as parents. Instead of seeing themselves responsible to care for their children, they saw their children as being born to gratify their emotional needs and take care of them. We were assigned roles that filled those needs. We were never seen as individuals with purposes of our own. We were seen as part of them. We were punished when we interfered with whatever they wanted to do and teaching us right from wrong or preparing us for the world, weren’t even considered by them. Much of their abuse was invisible because it was emotional and psychological. It was cumulative in the damage it caused but also, very hard to proove. The craftiest abusers learn how to abuse and manipulate their victims into meeting their needs without leaving any visible marks. Their wounds mark a child internally and scar the mind and soul. This damage takes a lifetime to heal and it doesn’t compare to a loving parent who sometimes spanks their child for their good. An abusive parent does nothing for the good of their child. Everything they do is for themselves. Child abuse is as much, or more, attitude than action. If we are to make things better for kids, we have to change attitudes towards children. I like that the people here seem to respect children and consider how different methods of disciipline affect them. We also, need to consider how children are affected when certain actions are labeled as abuse seperate from the intentions of the parent.

    Maybe what is needed is a good, working definition of child abuse.

    Pam

    • For the record, I did not write that post, it was Dara. I just posted her words to highlight them since I was so impressed with her comment and did not want it buried in the comments. 🙂

      I can see your concern about using the word abuse to describe spanking. Personally, I avoid doing that for exactly that reason. The word “abuse” has become a very strong word. I can’t see hitting children as ok but nor do I feel comfortable grouping it with other, more horrific abuse. Maybe I can call it mistreatment, which abuse used to mean. On the other hand, I cannot argue that it is not abuse so I do allow that definition on my site.

      Let me ask you this, how do we define when spanking becomes abuse? The problem I see is that nobody can agree on a definition. Many people can tell you exactly when they believe that it becomes abuse, but there is no consensus. Some people cannot even define the line and just say, “Well, I know abuse when I see it.” But what one person calls abuse, another person calls a normal spanking.

      Anyway, many people call any pain inflicted on anyone abuse. If it is abuse to do it to an adult, it is abuse to do it to a child. So, if you disagree with that definition, you are free to do so. But remember that some things you consider abuse, many parents consider Proper Biblical Chastisement. My point is that there is no point in arguing about the exact definition of the word. We agree way more than we disagree. <3

    • Dara says:

      I really enjoyed your reply to Hermana/me! 🙂 You made such good good points in your last paragraph!

      I think it’s true we need to: ” we have to be careful how we label each other.” I think we all tend to do that because well…if you see a weird animal you have never seen before and have no idea what it is you still say, “What is it?” You’re looking right at it and you can see it yourself, yet, you need to know what its been labeled. I wonder why we’re that way? Could go back to the thing with God bringing all the animals to Adam to “name” or label? Something built into us?

      Anyway! All the stuff you said in the final paragraph was just really awesome!!! I’m glad you’re here!!

  2. Melkmeid says:

    Hi, I’m really enjoying the dialogue!

    I’ve heard this and it makes so much sense!
    “The law is for how to treat others that you don’t love”. Because if you really love someone you won’t do hurtful things to them! I guess it would be a good idea to describe what I mean when I use the word love: Sacrifice, Vulnerability and Genuine Affection.

    “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
    1 John 4:18

    I believe that the more we realize how much Papa loves us, then the more we will Naturally treat others with kindness and gentleness!

    The world is all about controlling behaviour. Papa’s World is about love! And Papa lives in us, so love has made a home in us! We need not worry about how the world does things, we need only to rest in Papa’s lap of love and live out of that reality!

    Blessings,
    Hannah

  3. Pam says:

    Linda, I’m sorry for getting the writer mixed up. There are many voices on this website! I think it will take me awhile to get them sorted out.

    Dara, You wrote a great post.

    Linda, I think spanking a child because you’re angry and it gives you an emotional release to do so, is abuse. Spanking that becomes a beating is abuse. Spanking with not explanation as to why is abusive and so it spanking without loving reassurance afterward. When a parent abuses a child, the child’s needs are ignored and that child is mistreated or misused in some way that gratifies the parent, emotionally. I can’t call a parent an abuser who clearly, explains to their child why they are being spanked, then does so matter-of-factly in a manner that causes no damage or extreme pain, and then finishes by hugging the child and explaining again why they were spanked. When it is clear to the child that the parent doesn’t spank them because they enjoy it but instead, because they are teaching them that some behaviors bring punishment and punishment can mean pain, it is part of discipline. It is something the parent is doing for the good of the child, with the intent of teaching them right from wrong. It isn’t about beating the child into submission. It is a certain type of punishment for specific forms of misbehavior.

    Children aren’t adults and some of the things I spanked my sons for, would land them in jail if they persisted in the behavior as adults. I agree that children should be respected and their value is equal to adults but it is wrong to think that children are capable of adult reasoning. There is a trend in our culture to take responsibility from adults and place in on children. The public schools often, seem to expect little boys to behave like women and when they don’t, the counselors push the parents to have them medicated. In most cases, I think the medicating of children makes it easier on the adults who are responsible to train the child. I think it is important to allow children to be children, while training them to be responsible adults. Children have equal value with adults but they aren’t like adults. Their needs differ and the response to certain behaviors should be different too.

    Melkmeid, I agree that when love has perfected us, we no longer have any need to fear God because we have learned to obey God from the heart and we no longer need the Law to tutor us. This is about spiritual maturity. It isn’t about parenting children who may not even be spiritual, yet. Of course, we want to model the Ten Commandments in a positive way for our children so, that they see the Law fulfilled and not just held over their head like a club. Spiritual and religious training is very important for children but it is also, important to prepare them to live in the real world. Children who are overly sheltered have a hard time adjusting when they become adults. There has to be a balance between teaching them God’s ways and negotiating life in a fallen world. I agree that we can be worried about doing things the way the world does them be we can’t go out of the world either. We have to be in the world and not of it. That’s a difficult balance to strike with children. In fact, I don’t think it is possible without divine help.:0)I agree that if we trust God He will give us what we need to raise our children. When the Law is spiritually applied, it fits each situation perfectly. When we try to impose what God gave us on others, it become legalistic. Each of us has to look to Jesus directly, for guidance.

    Spanking a child isn’t somethin I ever wanted to do or looked forward to. I did sometimes spank my sons when everything else had been tried and they persisted in certain bad behaviors. I don’t think I abused them by doing so. They have never talked to me about being hurt or damaged because they were spanked. There were other things I did as a parent that did hurt them, did cause them damage. We’ve faced those things together and worked through them. Most of the mistakes I made were in running to far in the extreme of the mistakes my parents made with me and in trying to fix what was wrong in my childhood through my parenting of my children. The best way to prevent child abuse is for parents to seek healing from the traumas and abuses in their childhood so, they are able to fully, focus on what their children’s needs are. There is so much more to it than deciding to refrain from spanking. However, if a parent is able to raise their child and keep them from harmful behaviors without spanking, I’m all for it. Parenting is the hardest job on the planet and we all need to work hard at supporting one another instead of judging.

    I don’t know if I was able to make my position clearer or if I muddied the waters.:0)

    Pam

  4. Pam says:

    Sorry for the typos. I should proof-read before I hit submit. I meant to say, “Spanking with no explanation as to why, is abusive and so is spanking without loving assurance afterward, abusive.”

    I’d also, like to add that I know people have differnt definitions of what child abuse is. If you’ve ever been part of a group of child abuse survivors, that definition isn’t that hard to pin down. There are many different methods of abuse but abused children have been disregarded and treated as less than human. They have all been objectified and used for the gratification of the adults responsible for their well-being and upbringing. All child abuse survivors feel unloved and unloveable, less than equal, and are emotionally, confused. Abuse in families is much more than a few inapropriate actions, it is the atmosphere of the home. Abuse is the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, disregard of a child. Anyway, that’s my definition that I’ve developed through the experiences of my life.

    Pam

    • Steph says:

      Hi Pam,

      I just wanted to point out that my dad did hug me and even sometimes apologized for hitting me afterwards. Heck, sometimes he even cried after he realized what he did. He was loving most of the time. And never left marks. So, to some, that would not be considered abuse. In fact, it took me several years to call what he did to me abuse. Because, after all, I never had physical marks.

      That’s why I do call spanking/hitting abuse. Now, it’s funny because I don’t label you or others who spank/hit abusers. I just label the act of intentionally causing pain to another human being, no matter the age, abuse. If you read my “effects of spanking” series, many were “lovingly” spanked/hit by their parents and it did harm them.

      Anyway, I need to keep reading this thread, but I just had to butt in to show that even “abuse” can be done in a loving manner. So, I would like to see all corporal punishment be labeled abuse to help stop abuse in more violent forms. After all, non-injurious spanking/hitting is a form of violence. Just as abortion after conception is murder. People try to say it isn’t if it happens at a certain time, and in a certain way, but it is what it is. By the way,I don’t ever want children taken from their parents for being spanked/hit. I want education to occur.

      I taught today and the master teacher from the lab school where I used to work was in the class with me. Well, they have a very difficult toddler in the toddler room right now. He’ll literally run circles around the room, hitting other toddlers, running outside. Very, very difficult child. Well, he happened to trip & fall this morning landing on his tummy. For whatever reason, she calmly but firmly pushed down on his back with both hands. He started to relax for the first time. So she proceeded to massage his whole body. This toddler went from completely outa control to a happy limp noodle. It helped him for a while. They are finding that he just gets very overstimulated easily, and massaging him helps him get in control again. It breaks my heart to think of children being punished instead of figuring out, by chance sometimes, a non-punitive way of helping them.

      Hope this makes sense. I’m so glad you’re here, Pam. God bless you!

      Love,
      Steph

  5. Pam says:

    All, Okay, I think I’m finally understanding the lay-out here and what I’m responding to where. Linda, thank you for explaining natural consequences. I have to admit that was something I wasn’t good at. I wanted to protect my children from pain because no one protected me, as a child. I was allowed to learn everything the hard way so, in many instances, I went too far in protecting my kids. They’ve never complained about spankings but they have voiced pain about growing up under my hyper-vigilence. I didn’t know I was being too extreme and my children are kind in describing my ‘abuse’ by over-protecting them, as passive. They know my intent was good but it still caused them emotional pain. I think abuse can also, be described as visiting the parents psychological pain and or sickness on the children. All parents have their own inner work to do some, more than others. I was always trying to improve and that is what makes me different from my parents. They refuse to even allow themselves to see that anything they did was wrong. They prefer to blame me. That was the role I was assigned in my family of origin.

    Dara, Everything in my first response was meant for you. I really enjoyed reading your comment and I see your evolution as a parent in it. Isn’t it wonderful what God teaches us through our children? I have learned more from my children than I could ever hope to teach them.

    Thanks to everyone for taking the time to share with me.

    Pam

    • Thank you so much for your comments. I went back and had Dara join this site so that I could make her the author in hopes of making things less confusing.

      There are no perfect parents. We all make mistakes somewhere. Most of us try our best but even when we do, we will still look back and see tons of things we wish we could change. <3

  6. Pam says:

    Linda, It is that attitude of being able to acknowledge the mistakes we make as parents that makes all the differnce in our relationships with adult children. Parents who can’t acknowledge mistakes and grow from them often, end up being estranged from their children as adults. We are also, more helpful as grandparents if we can talk to our children about what we’ve learned from the mistakes we made. Parenting is a life-long process.:0)

    Pam

    • Steph says:

      Amen. I often wonder how much healing I would’ve had had my dad truly apologized to me before he died in 2003. Bless you for doing it with your children, Pam! I really have enjoyed getting to know you!

      Love,
      Steph

    • Dara says:

      I think what we’re talking about now is humility. If parents can have humility…we can talk to our children and learn from our mistakes…make amends for our wrongs and move forward. I need to look verses up about humility…tomorrow… 🙂

      Thanks for all the great conversation everyone!

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