Creative Child

Consequences That Teach

by Rebecca Eanes

There is a disturbing new parenting trend for "creative consequences" which usually involves shaming the child publicly in some way. But is shaming children really the way to go? Is it effective?


Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW, has spent the last 12 years researching shame, guilt, and vulnerability. She says, "Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows." She goes on to say, “Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.”

These "creative consequences" may work, but at what cost. Consequences should only be given to teach a child, not to shame him.


Guide to Giving Consequences That Teach:

1. Watch intent. Intention is important because the intention you have will influence the language and tone you use when you deliver the consequence. If your intent is to punish, that will be evident in your child. If your intent is to teach, you will be softer and more empathetic when delivering the consequence. Empathy calms the brain, removes the threat, and allows a child to take responsibility for this own behavior.

2. Let natural consequences happen where appropriate. Often we try to either rescue our child from the natural consequences of her actions OR we compound it by adding additional punishments on top of it. Let's say your child left her toy in the driveway and it got ran over. Rescuing would be buying her a new toy immediately. Adding additional punishment would be grounding her for leaving it outside. The natural consequence, however, is simply that now her toy is broken. That's a pretty good teacher.

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