April 11, 2018

by Patrick Sullivan

Children aren’t born as tyrants, but they sure can become tyrannical pretty fast if we choose to step in and help them.

And yet, tyrants are not created from mere ‘spoiling,’ no, tyrants – demanding and self-absorbed individuals – are the result of parenting with no consequences.

Now, I know to some that may sound like a controversial statement, but it can only be considered so because it is still in vogue in some parenting circles to practice zero consequence parenting.

Yes; you read that right.

According to some parenting experts, consequences are unfair. And I can tell you after reading far too many books on the subject, that these experts consider consequences unfair because they wouldn’t want the consequences themselves.

In one popular book, even Jesus’ famous words to ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ (Matthew 7:12) was pronounced in defence of the practice.

“Well I wouldn’t want to be given a gold star on a progress chart for performing some task, so why should I do that to a child.”

“Well I wouldn’t want to be penalized for not making my bed so why would I do that to a little person.”

CAN WE POINT OUT THE OBVIOUS HERE?

Human beings (regardless of their age) have the profound and awesome gift from God of seeking something called cause and effect. It is how we learn. It is how we explore. And it is how we learn to interact with others. In other words, looking to understand how my behaviour effects what comes next is part of the gene pool, and it is what elevates us as a species above other beings.

So Billy pushes Sally. And they both want to know, what happens now?
Sally does something really great, above and beyond the call of mediocrity. And Sally wants to know, was that worth the effort?

Teaching our children consequences (both positive and negative) feeds that part of them that is already searching; reaching to become a human being like you are.

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL

Whether these theorists like it or not, you and I and our children have to live among other human beings…okay, maybe not all of us, as there will no doubt be some desert hermits among us, but you get my point.

And when humans come together they inevitably create societal norms that all must operate by. And yes, you guessed it, these norms are enforced with consequences.

You hurt someone else, you might just lose your job or be incarcerated completely.
You don’t show up on time for you final exam, you might just find that you flunk that course.
You don’t use the appropriate language or behave in a way befitting a romantic relationship, and you just might find yourself eating popcorn and watching shows by yourself.

Cause and effect; living in a society. These are two very basic reasons to teach your children about consequences.

So take Jesus’ words seriously. If you want your child to enjoy the freedom and relationships as an adult that you already enjoy, then please, just give them that gold star.

PATRICK SULLIVAN

Catholic Lay Evangelist, Patrick Sullivan is an author, speaker, educator and founder of Evango, a Catholic media organization that meets the baptized where they are at while inspiring them to engage in the new evangelization.

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Catholic Lay Evangelist, Patrick Sullivan meets the baptized where they are at while inspiring them to engage in the new evangelization.

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