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From an article on how to punish children

The term “child punishment” sounds harsh, doesn’t it? Sure, we could soften the terminology and call it child consequences... (source)

Consequences-Natural vs. Fabricated

Consequences, Threats and Fear

Excerpt on "Consequences" and Pseudochoices by Alfie Kohn, from Phi Delta Kappan

Norma Spurlock on Consequences

An Example of Consequences as Punishment

Don't demand total control but establish consequences--like loss of allowance--for violation of rules. (xx need to find source again)

Consequences-Natural vs. Fabricated

The word "consequences" is often used in discussions of teaching and parenting. Typically the word is synonymous with "punishment." For example, a common "consequence" for children is getting "grounded" or being sent to "detention".

Such consequences fall under the category of what I call "fabricated consequences." Fabricated consequences are those which are created by someone who has power over someone else. These are opposed to natural consequences, which will occur naturally without the intervention of an authority figure.

Here is an example. If a child regularly hits other children, it can be expected that a natural consequence would be that the other children will avoid him and he will be left with no friends. A fabricated consequence would be to have the child write 500 times "I will not hit people."

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Consequences, Threats and Fear

If we think about whether a person feels threatened when we talk about consequences, it might help distinguish between natural and fabricated consequences.

For example, if you tell a child, "If you don't put your bike inside, I am going to punish you" -- this is clearly a threat. Even if you don't use the word "punish," but instead say something like, "If you don't... you won't be allowed to ride it for a week," the child will still feel threatened.

On the other hand, if you explain that if he doesn't put the bike inside, it could either get rained upon and get rusty, or it could get stolen, the child is not likely to feel personally threatened. Or more specifically, he won't feel afraid of you. This reminds us of the important question: Do you want your child or teenager to feel afraid of you?

Some people will say that a "logical" consequence is to tell the child he/she won't be allowed to ride the bike for a week or some arbitrary amount of time. In reality, this is still a fabricated consequence; it is still a threat and still based on fear and on the imbalance of power between you and the child.

The goal in helping develop a child's potential, and their capacity for self-discipline, is to educate through explaining natural consequences, rather than intimidate through the use of threats, fear and punishment.

Nathaniel Branden writes:

In nature, if we behave irresponsibly we suffer the consequences not because nature is "punishing" us but because of simple cause and effect. If we do not plant food, we do not reap a harvest. If we are careless about fire, we destroy our property. If we build a raft without securing the logs properly, the raft comes apart in the water and we may lose our belongings or drown. None of this happens because reality is angry with us. If reality could speak, it might say, "It's nothing personal."

Children are helped more when educated as to the likely natural consequences of their actions, rather than being punished by the fabricated consequences imposed on them from above. Only the former may truly be called education.

S. Hein

Excerpt on "Consequences" and Pseudochoices by Alfie Kohn, from Phi Delta Kappan
WHILE well-meaning educators may offer very different prescriptions regarding the nature and scope of students' participation in decision making, I believe that certain ways of limiting participation are basically deceptive and best described as "pseudochoice." It is disturbing to find these tactics recommended not only by proponents of blatantly controlling classroom management programs, such as Assertive Discipline, but also by critics of such programs who purport to offer an enlightened alternative.

In the first version of pseudochoice, a student is offered a choice that is obviously loaded. "You can finish your math problems now or you can stay in during recess. Which would you prefer?" The problem here is not just that the number of options has been reduced to two, but that the second one is obviously something no student would select. The teacher is really saying, "Do what I tell you or you'll be punished," but he is attempting to camouflage this conventional use of coercion by pretending to offer the student a choice.

In a variation of this gambit, the student is punished after disobeying the teacher's command, but the punishment is presented as something the student asked for: "I see you've chosen to miss recess today." The appeal of this tactic is no mystery: it appears to relieve the teacher of responsibility for what she is about to do to the child. But it is a fundamentally dishonest attribution. Children may choose not to complete a math assignment,(46) but they certainly do not choose to miss recess; teachers do that to them. To the injury of punishment is added the insult of a kind of mind game whereby reality is redefined and children are told, in effect, that they chose to be punished. This gimmick uses the word choice as a bludgeon rather than giving children what they need, which is the opportunity to participate in making real decisions about what happens to them.(47)

Another kind of pseudochoice purports to let a student or a class make a decision even though there is only one choice that will be accepted. I recently heard a well-known educator and advocate for children reminisce about her experiences as a teacher. Recalling a student of hers who frequently and articulately challenged her authority, she commented with a smile, "I had to be a better negotiator than she was." This remark suggests that what had taken place was not negotiation at all but thinly disguised manipulation. As Nel Noddings has written, "We cannot enter into dialogue with children when we know that our decision is already made."(48)

If students are informed that they have made the "wrong" decision and must try again, they will realize they were not truly free to choose in the first place. But the last, and most insidious, variety of pseudochoice tries to prevent students from figuring this out by encouraging them to think they had a say when the game was actually rigged. The "engineering of consent," as it has been called, seems to offer autonomy while providing "the assurance of order and conformity - a most seductive combination. Yet its appearance and its means should be understood for what they really are: a method of securing and solidifying the interests of those in power."(49) This description by educator James Beane might have been inspired by the behavior of politicians, but it is no less applicable to what goes on in schools. If we want students to learn how to choose, they must have the opportunity to make real choices.

From http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/cfc.htm


Norma Spurlock on Consequences

Natural consequences are not imposed by anyone. They occur naturally. If you stand in the rain with no raincoat, you get wet. If you mistreat your friends, you won't have many. If you lie, people won't trust you.

Students gain valuable life wisdom when we allow them to experience and help them understand the natural consequences of their actions.

The teacher's role is advisor, explainer, consultant, comforter, rather than judge, jury and punisher.

Many teachers develop punitive practices which they incorrectly label "consequences." For example, having students write 500 times, "I will never leave my seat again without permission," is a punitive practice, being neither reasonable nor related to the undesired behavior of being out of one's seat without permission. Repetitive writing does not teach students how to meet their needs appropriately. Repetitive writing helps students feel resentful, sets up an adversarial relationship and jeopardizes their enjoyment of writing. For writing to be a learning experience, the writing should be meaningful. Meaningful writing might include a plan for restitution and problem solving. I might also suggest writing about feelings and what would help everyone feel better, such as writing a letter of apology and personally delivering it.

(Adapted from Responsibility Training, by Norma Spurlock, 1996 edition. pp. 32-33)


An Example of Consequences as Punishment

This is just one of the surely hundreds, if not thousands on the net

I see structure as a function of consequences. A school has a tight structure when consequences for the student are immediate, appropriate and consistent. In other words, cause and effect are closely related. On the other hand, a school has a weak structure when consequences are delayed or nonexistent, inappropriate, and/or inconsistent.

from strugglingteens.com/archives/1997/12/oe02.html


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