Children are not born knowing how to behave. Your child learns how to behave from you, her teachers, her friends and natural consequences of her own actions. Allowing her to experience the results of her own bad behavior is one way to keep her from repeating inappropriate actions. The consequences can be real or they can be related, depending upon whether or not she would be endangered by the results of her actions.
When your child persistently misbehaves, you can allow the natural consequences for her behavior to occur. When your child refuses to wear socks and gets a blister on her heel or when she persists in playing with the cat and gets scratched, these are natural results of her actions. In these cases, you can dispense bandages and a reminder that the blister and the scratch are the results of her behavior. There are limits to how far you can allow a child to be subjected to natural results, however. Some actions, such as riding her bike in the middle of a busy street, could be very dangerous.
Parent-created related consequences can take the place of natural consequences in cases where your child's actions might be dangerous to her or to others. For example, if she persistently rides her bike in the street, you might put the bike away for the day. If she hits another child, she loses visiting privileges for a week. Explain to her in each case exactly why she is losing the privilege or toy. More importantly, administer the same or slightly escalated consequence for each similar offense.
Develop a set of rules and post them in a place where everyone in the family can see them. Have a set of consequences prepared for problem behavior, such as returning home late, not doing chores or failing to complete homework. Sit down with your child and discuss the rules and consequences. Encourage her to come up with some of the rules and consequences. You might even write up a contract that you can both sign and display it on a bulletin board or the refrigerator.
Some Don'ts for Parents
When your child is upset, it is natural for you to want to help her out. Of course you will take care of any physical damage, but don't sympathize when she has caused her own pain. Don't rescue her from a friend's anger when her own actions have caused a quarrel, or from getting a bad grade if she failed to complete her work. The loss of a friend or receiving a failing grade while she is young might prevent greater problems from occurring when she is a teen or an adult.