Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Autism Answer: A Consequence of Punishment


On the beach: my sister, two of her four daughters, and her husband.

I was a mom before my sister was. I adored the way she loved watching me with my sons! Soon, my sister had children of her own. And I quickly adored watching her with her daughters!
I watched as my sister focused less on punishment for her children and more on consequences. As a mom, I loved this. The consequence was I began to do the same. 
Things didn't have to change much. When my boys made a mess they would still be expected to clean it up because that's a natural consequence. When they would fight with each other they would still be expected to stop fighting, to apologize if it seemed appropriate, to go to their beds and take time to calm down and think about the situation if that made sense, because those are some consequences of fighting. If they didn't listen to me when we were in the grocery store, if they had a tantrum to try and get something they wanted that I was unwilling or unable to get for them, I still dealt with the attitude in much of the same ways I always had (mainly by freaking out internally over hoping I would handle it right and knowing only that whatever I did I couldn't let the tantrum be how they got something) because there are consequences to being whiny or mean.
The difference when I focused more on consequence than punishment was less about what happened and more about how the happening was framed. What lesson I tried to highlight. 
I'm not a big believer in "if you do this you might get caught, imprisoned, ticketed" etc, and more a believer in "if you do this these are the sorts of things that might happen to you and your environment." As a mom but also as a citizen in society. 
I think a consequence of focusing on punishment is that we too often teach "don't break this rule or you'll get in trouble" when we could be teaching "here are the reasons we have decided as a society/family to have this rule." 
It's not that I think consequences should never feel like punishments. It's more that I think focusing on the reality of consequences helps us better understand the fullness of our actions. Everyone involved is given more opportunity to explore the potential consequences. 
I think the shift in focus helps us remember to be responsible for ourselves, to be less combative with people we perceive as punishing us, to be more aware of the myriad of consequences rather than see only the big shiny punishment. 
If the consequence of me sharing this idea is you decide to punish me by telling me I'm a silly old lady with naive dreams of a world that can change when we change our focus, no problem! I'll just focus on the part where you cared enough about my idea to respond with thoughts of your own and the consequence will be I feel less punished. tee hee! 
Hugs, smiles, and love!!