It’s part of your job as a parent to teach your child to behave in an acceptable manner. Part of teaching good behaviour is teaching a child to understand consequences – cause and effect. Your little one looks to you to teach him responsibility, self-discipline and consideration for others and children learn by copying the adults around them, so your own behaviour (towards your child and towards others) is of paramount importance here.
Teaching consequences as part of behaviour is to show your child that there are positive consequences of good behaviour and negative consequences of bad behaviour. You need to teach your little one that his actions have consequences and the first step is to establish the rules. This will happen naturally on a day to day basis during the early years as your child discovers himself and his environment.
You’ll be teaching your little one the rules on an ongoing basis and it’s important not to tell a little one off if he doesn’t know a certain rule yet. Now is the opportunity to tell him what the rule is and why it is that way so that he can choose to behave appropriately in future. Make sure that you explain it clearly and using words your child is familiar with to help him understand properly.
Now comes the positive consequences of good behaviour. When you’ve had a good time with your little one, perhaps you’ve had fun at home or out and about, explain to him that the reason you could have such fun was that everybody behaved nicely which made it easy for everybody to enjoy themselves. When you have treats like ice creams or lunch out, explain that you can only do so because everybody involved is behaving well.
The negative consequences will come as a result of inappropriate behaviour. If your little one has a tantrum then you’ll all miss out on having a good time while the behaviour issue is dealt with. If your child deliberately breaks something, the consequence would be that he no longer has that object to play with. If your child is unkind to another child, then the consequence would be that children may no longer want to play with him.
You need to teach the rules and the consequences in terms that your little one is able to digest. Don’t make things too complicated, especially if your child is very young and just beginning to learn. Keep things as simple as possible; discuss behaviour with your child on a regular basis as part of the normal conversation. Teaching good behaviour and the negative consequences of unacceptable behaviour is an ongoing process that will change as your child becomes older and passes through different stages of development.