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KIDS: Natural and Logical Consequences

When Joshua, my oldest was five, I enrolled him in El Paso Country Day School.  We were stationed at Ft. Bliss military base and living up near the hospital in field grade military quarters; there were big problems with the small local elementary school just outside the military gates. I wanted his first experience and exposure to school be as positive as possible; after all wouldn’t this in someway determine his future?  My husband was doing his internship and residency and spend inhuman hours at the hospital; I have the pictures to prove it—even today.

One day exasperated, I confess in a conversation with Susan Jordan, PhD, assistant to the founder of the school, that I would never get Joshua to school on time without the morning drama that eventually ended up with me upset.  Was yelling really necessary to get him to move in the morning so we could get to school on time? I guess I was seeking answers; needing help.

Her response was utterly astounding to me.  She simply advised, “let him get dressed at school if he is not ready when it is time to leave the house.” I was speechless.  “I can’t do that”, I instinctually responded and added,  “He will come to school in his pajamas!”

 

Sweetly, she smiled and answered my protest,  “Let him know what time you are leaving,” I listened intently.  She continued with the precise but simple instructions.  “Tell him when you are leaving, and if he is not ready, he can get dressed at school. Tell him that you will put his clothes in a bag and that he can get dressed in my office.  Then upon arriving, bring him into my office and set his bag of clothes on my desk.  He can get dressed in here.  And, I will see you in the afternoon, with his sleepware in the bag; you can pick it up off my desk.”

She then explained this parenting technique called Natural and Logical consequences.  It puts the responsibility on the child. The child always has a choice.  If Joshua chose to get dressed, for example, at home, then the experience he has is different than choosing to play with toys and not be ready. Then by his inaction he must get dressed at school. His other option is to get dressed at home before leaving. Each choice the child makes brings a new experience from his or her decision. Each a valuable learning experience based on his/her choice.  But the responsibility is put on their shoulders; not yours.

I processed this new concept, asking myself, was I brave enough to try this novel approach?  At least to me it was different than anything I had known at the time.  Something I was totally unfamiliar with, however, it certainly sounded like sage advice and something that would support a new healthier routine each morning getting out of the house.

Morning came. Joshua was still playing when it was time to head for school.  I had followed her instructions. I loaded Joshua and David into the car.  His school clothes neatly in a brown grocery bag, and ready for him to put on upon his arrival at school.  However, when we pulled up—Joshua was a bit alarmed.  I don’t believe he expected me to carry through with what I had explained to him earlier.  I led him to the office with both his clothes nestled in the bag and his younger brother in tow—riding on my hip.  Susan was there waiting and like the precision of a swiss watch,  I gently handed her the bag and my son’s hand.  No words were exchanged.  Only a passing smile and an exchange of eye contact; the rest was in her hands. I had done my part for now.

The following morning, I again followed the new routine that Susan had schooled me in.  This time however, Joshua was half way dressed when we arrived; scrambling to dress in the car.  He finished dressing in Susan’s office that morning too.  The big shift came on day 3.  This time he was dressed and ready for school.  I never again had to say a word.  He was always ready; the drama gone.  As a matter of fact, when his brother David was around 5 or 6, there was a distraction one morning—probably a video game—I honestly do not remember, but David was not ready for school.  It was Joshua, who I overheard, telling his brother to get ready for school “DAVE, YOU DON’T WANT ‘THE BAG’ ! ”   I smiled and we headed out the door for school. It was a lesson for my kids, but a bigger lesson was for me.  And that made me smile.

“The only Journey is the one within.”

–Rainer Maria Rilke

“Inspired Wellness from Within”

Cathrine Silver, HC, AADP

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