Sometimes it seems that punishing a child is a whole lot easier than taking the time to think of a natural consequence to teach a lesson. It’s just so easy to say “Go up to your room and stay there until dinnertime!” Grounding is another favorite punishment, but what do those two particular punishments actually teach? Being sent to one’s room or being grounded both communicate parental dissatisfaction with a particular behavior. But, will either punishment actually give your child the opportunity to work through and fix his mistake the way that a natural consequence would? What is a natural consequence for a teen who stays out an hour after he is to be home? Perhaps he should not be allowed out the next time he is invited to be with friends, and the next time after that, he should have to come home one hour earlier than his usual curfew. Those are two natural consequences that will have meaning, impact, and teach a lesson. They allow that teen to earn back parental trust by coming home on time. What do you do with a ‘tween or teen who has stolen something? Natural consequences would be to return the item to its owner, apologize directly to that person, work to earn enough money to pay for the item, and do some sort of community service or act of kindness for the person from whom he stole. When you really think about it, natural consequences aren’t so difficult to come up with. Why then do some parents choose to punish or humiliate, knowing that it is not the most effective way to teach? The facts are in. Children can’t think clearly when they are angry or humiliated. Very few people can. There is a common saying that “A child who is mad or sad can’t add.” Simply put, when emotions run high, children are less able to learn. That is not to say that we need to keep our children happy, as that is not our job. Our job is to educate our children with healthy values, and provide natural consequences which are directly linked to the misbehavior in order to teach a lesson. Read more about natural and unnatural consequences in my column, What’s your parenting style?