Every day we all have opportunities to learn from the experiences which are the consequences of our actions. It is especially important that we learn from our negative experiences so we don’t repeat the same again and again.
Two examples of experiencing the negative consequences of our actions or behaviour are:
- Forgetting to check the time for an appointment, then arriving late because we thought it was at a later time.
- Having a smelly rubbish bag lying around for another week because we forgot to put it out on rubbish day.
It is equally important that our teenagers also learn from the consequences of their actions or behaviour. Or learn from what someone else has said or done to them or done to someone else.
As their parents we can help them learn in a positive manner by:
- helping them think though what happened by asking questions such as ‘Tell me what happened?’
- by carefully listening to their answer, especially how they might be feeling.
- briefly summarizing what they said happened, guessing how they are feeling and saying that also. Just like we do in the ‘Low thing – High thing’ game.
- by helping them think though what they might like to do differently next time.
When our teen experiences the negative consequences of their actions sometimes it is tempting to say such comments as ‘I told you so’ or ‘Maybe this will now help you to learn’. These comments often tend to be said in an ‘indignant’ tone of voice.
However, our teenagers learn better within a warm, caring and supportive relationship. They then learn with the help of our empathetic response when we engage them in a supportive conversation.
This is positive discipline or disciplining in a positive manner. An example of a supportive conversation could be as follows:
Teen “Because I hadn’t completed my assignment the teacher made me do it during lunch.”
Dad “You had to do it at lunch time, you must have been annoyed.”
Teen “Yes, I think he was just picking on me, he didn’t make Jarrod do his at lunch time and I know he hadn’t finished either.”
Dad “It wasn’t just that you missed your lunch time, you felt he was treating you unfairly as well.”
Teen “I don’t like English; I wish I didn’t have to be in his class.”
Dad “I can see you are feeling really upset about this. I wonder what you might like to differently next time?”
Because Dad had really listened to his son’s feelings they were able to continue the conversation in a way that supported his son learning from his experience.
This is not the same as reminding our teen of something they need to do then if they don’t do it, hoping they will just learn from suffering the consequences of their actions.
This strategy of how to positively help our teen to learn from their experience is closely related to what some parenting books and courses call – learning from natural consequences – but has a more positive focus.