Here at the Doctor and the Dad, we’re always giving parents tips for teaching stuff to their kids. But sometimes, children learn the most powerful lessons all by themselves.
Just ask our just-turned-two-year-old son.
Earlier this week, mere days before his birthday, our fearless little Freddy pulled a naptime family first – he escaped from his crib.
We didn’t see it happen. But everybody in the house heard it. One great big thump, followed by lots (and lots) of crying.
It resulted in a pretty rough day for all of us: a painful broken bone for our son, tons of tears for Mommy, medical insurance logistics to figure out for Daddy and missed playtime with her BFF for big sister Sammy.
But at least there was one positive effect that came out of our kid’s self-destructive stunt – we’re pretty sure we don’t have to worry about him making a repeat escape.
As our son’s tiny arm was being casted that day in the emergency room, we took the opportunity to talk with him about the events that got us all there. It went something like this:
Us: Do you remember what happened when you climbed out of your crib?
Him: (Showing us his arm) HURT.
Us: That’s right, buddy. You got hurt.
Him: (Looking at his arm, but seemingly a million miles away now) …Hurt.
Us: And are you ever going to climb out of your crib again?
Him: (Staring us straight in the eyeballs, as hard as he possibly can) NO!!!
The kid’s stayed equally emphatic on that last point ever since.
Children can learn all sorts of lessons by observing the natural consequences of their own actions. And fortunately, the situations don’t have to be nearly this dramatic for the lessons to take effect. Some examples:
- Feeling hungry at night teaches kids to eat more for dinner.
- Doing poorly on an assignment teaches kids to put in more effort.
- Leaving a favorite toy out in the rain teaches kids to take better care of their stuff.
So the next time your child’s bad behavior results in an undesirable consequence, be sure to do what you can to help turn it into a learning experience. Talk about what happened, highlighting for your child the behavior that led to the outcome and what he can do to change it in the future.
And take a tip from the Dad: figure out where your nearest in-network, after-hours urgent care facility is now, before you need it.