I often hear myself saying, “sometimes it needs to get really bad before it gets better”.
I might be referring to politics or a sticky social situation that prompts change. I’ve said it to clients too who have a health condition that they’ve let go, but are now committed to resolving. But last week was the first time I found myself saying it to my family.
You see, my son has found Minecraft.
I love seeing him so passionate about something, I’m awed by his creations, pleased with how engaged his is with other online players, and proud of his growing confidence (he’s even talking about doing Minecraft YouTube tutorials!).
But…it’s becoming a bit much. That was obvious when he had a meltdown at the end of a day that featured way too much screen time.
After he cooled down and we talked about what happened, he admitted that the game was negatively affecting him. He also suggested that I write a blog post about it to help other parents! So here I am, following through.
I try to encourage autonomy for my son whenever possible. I do my best to educate him on healthy food choices, dental hygiene, and bathing, but for the most part, we trust that he will either make the best choice for himself or learn from decisions that weren’t in his best interest. But now with this digital obsession, it is clear that he cannot self-regulate and is relying on us to provide limits to avoid anymore physical, mental, and emotional harm.
Because of the meltdown, my son is more aware of the negative effects of screens, so I suppose allowing this consequence did work. But I felt horrible that we had to get to that place in order for him to appreciate our screen limits and I had never intended for him to actually learn the lesson this way.
After reflecting on this for awhile, it seems to me that natural consequences are worthwhile only if the person…
1. Understands cause and effect and is mindful of what they are experiencing.
2. Has the maturity to learn from the mistake.
3. Is not permanently damaged from the consequence.
4. Actually cares about their health!
I see examples of this issue coming up in the clinic in different ways. I have a few parents right now dealing with wonderfully willful children who are not making the best decisions. The parents are concerned about chronic infections or behavior problems and are needing to change their lifestyle choices, encourage their children to follow through with our treatment plan by taking some herbs/supplements, and to establish healthy habits like dressing warmer. For if they continue to get sick often or have emotional imbalances, it negatively impacts other areas of their life. The children are not yet making the connection that their poor choices are worsening their condition.
Should you allow natural consequences for unhealthy habits? Will your child learn better this way? Or will the message be lost on them? Of course this is totally up to you to decide, and your answers maybe different depending on the situation.
Perhaps the next question you should ask though is:
Do you really want the situation to get bad before you implement positive changes?!
Please let us know what you think in the comments!