Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Suffering Consequences or Avoiding Consequences?

car crash Q: If a child is not taught through consequences, how will he ever learn to live in a world filled with consequences?

A: When you are teaching your children to drive a car, do you teach them how to get into an accident so they are prepared for one in the future? I hope not! Instead, we teach our children how to be defensive drivers in order to prevent and be free of accidents.

This analogy demonstrates the idea of teaching our children consequences because we live in a world filled with consequences. Think about this important concept: Instead of teaching our children how to suffer consequences, we need to teach them how to stay regulated in order to avoid consequences. The first is reactive parenting. The second is proactive parenting.

Reactive parenting is characterized by consequences and control that is focused solely on behavior in order to have compliant children who do as they are told. Proactive parenting is teaching our children how to stay regulated during stressful times in order to develop their own internal control mechanisms.

Reactive parenting leaves children living in a fear-based world, where they make decisions and choices based on the consequences of their actions, rather than making decisions based on how their choices can help or benefit those around them. Decisions are made based on "What will happen to me if I do this?" This is a limiting way to get our children to think.

Proactive parenting allows children to live within a much more open internal framework of love and acceptance, giving them the space and freedom to make decisions based on their own internal moral compass.

Parenting beyond consequences, logic, and control helps give our children the practice during childhood to develop their own internal controls. This prepares them to be able to function at a higher level of consciousness when they are adults. It gives them the ability to live beyond the fear of consequences. Living in fear limits us, makes life harder than it should be, and creates unnecessary barriers.

The dominant belief in our culture is that we need external measures in order to keep us living an ethical and moral life. The deeper truth is that we have the ability to develop all of this within ourselves through adopting core values and through our ability to connect with others in loving and respectful relationships.

Core values that are given the space to have a voice determine our behavior. Loving relationships create desire and internal motivation to live by these values. When we are connected with others in safe relationships, we have empathy and are in touch with our feelings. We are able to live far beyond our primal needs whereby we can tap into the deeper levels within us that distinguish us from all other creatures on this planet.

Consequences, as the primary motivator and enforcer from parents, teach fear and rejection. This fear and rejection then transcends to teaching the child self-rejection. "If my parents don't love me, then I must not be worthy. I must not deserve love." Self-acceptance, self-validation, and self-worth are absent or limited within the child's framework.

Yet, these are qualities that we want to instill in our children based on who they are, not on what they do or how they act. Our children need to know they are intrinsically valuable, worthy, and deserving of unconditional love. When these qualities make up the blueprint of their personality and their inner selves, they do not need external consequences to keep them within the parameters of society. They develop much stronger boundaries and a powerful sense of right and wrong from within themselves.

We figure out very early in life that the external consequences used to enforce boundaries only apply if you get caught. It is a tragedy to think about how much time and energy is spent making sure we do not get caught in order to avoid consequences. We are all guilty of speeding down the street and then hitting the brakes when we see a police car. What would it take to shift your thinking to that of, "I'm going to go the speed limit in order to be safe for myself and for those around me," instead of, "I'm going to go the speed limit because I can't afford a ticket or for my insurance rates to increase"?

It is self-love that breeds respect for ourselves and for others. Self-love and self-respect keep us in a place of integrity and keep us moving forward in our lives. Self-motivation, self-discipline, and self-awareness are all by-products of this love for self. These internal controls, not consequences created by parents or society, are the original design to keep us on the straight and narrow path.

We need to stop living our lives in a pool of fear. It keeps us treading water in the shallow end, constricted and limited and it makes our lives complicated and turbulent. Love allows us to swim in the deep end, free to live a fulfilling life and free to think beyond consequences in order to dream big and live in peace, abundance, and happiness. Love allows us to develop the ability to self-regulate in times of stress in order to stay calm enough to make the right decisions and choices.

Through our parenting, we have the ability to give our children the gift of self-regulation so they may live productive, happy, and abundant lives in a world filled with consequences.

Press on,

Heather T. Forbes, LCSW
Parent and Author of Beyond Consequences, Logic & Control: Volume 1 & Volume 2, and Dare to Love

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