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07 November 2013

The Choices We Make

My Dragon loves to be outside. He loves to ride his bike. He loves to watch the birds, especially the crows.

He also loves to dump out baskets of toys. 

This time, he dumped out our big bin of Duplos, moments before we were supposed to go outside, and right after he and Hero finished picking them up. Mostly, Hero had picked them up. 

Now, Dragon has to do that great big job. By himself. While Hero rides his bike on the deck.

It's a hard lesson. But a good one. I'm hoping that he'll figure out that dumping the toys isn't a great idea. He's a bright kid. It shouldn't take that many times before he's a bit less into the mess. Natural consequences are good stuff.

Turns out, people have been talking about natural consequences for a good long time. Over at the Mises Institute they've got an article on natural consequences that's a bit older. They've reprinted an article from the 1800's called "On Moral Education." It's pretty good stuff. Talks about natural consequences in a way that I'd never considered:

Now in these and like cases, Nature illustrates to us in the simplest way, the true theory and practice of moral discipline. Observe, in the first place, that in bodily injuries and their penalties we have misconduct and its consequences reduced to their simplest forms. Though according to their popular acceptations, right and wrong are words scarcely applicable to actions that have none but direct bodily effects; yet whoever considers the matter will see that such actions must be as much classifiable under these heads as any other actions. Note, in the second place, the character of the punishments by which these physical transgressions are prevented. Punishments, we call them, in the absence of a better word; for they are not punishments in the literal sense. They are not artificial and unnecessary inflictions of pain; but are simply the beneficent checks to actions that are essentially at variance with bodily welfare — checks in the absence of which life would quickly be destroyed by bodily injuries. It is the peculiarity of these penalties, if we must so call them, that they are nothing more than the unavoidable consequences of the deeds which they follow; they are nothing more than the inevitable reactions entailed by the child’s actions.

Let it be further borne in mind that these painful reactions are proportionate to the degree in which the organic laws have been transgressed. A slight accident brings a slight pain, a more serious one, a greater pain.

So far, so good. When Tigress is exploring, I warn her, but I don't always prevent her from getting minor bumps: that's the stuff of learning, and she'll be better off for having them. Which is not to say that I let her just dive off anything! Still, she's developed the respect for the Edge of things that all babies eventually do.

It's becoming something I'm aware of in my parenting, this business of not getting in the way of natural consequence. That can be hard. Interestingly, it makes me aware of the natural consequences of my own actions. If I don't keep up on my dishes, the kitchen is nasty and unpleasant. And I don't have the things that I need for cooking, and I'm still responsible for making food appear at regular intervals. If I stay up late I suffer in the morning - and my family often suffers with me. Natural consequences don't go away. Bumps don't stop hurting. Short nights always act like short nights. Dirty rooms never are pleasant. Yelling never solves the problem, and in fact, it makes new problems to deal with.

On the other hand, natural consequences can work for us too. Kindness and patience encourages more of the same. Clean spaces are more pleasant to be in -- and they tend to be easier to keep clean too. Reading the scriptures brings peace and stability to our home.

Choice is a remarkable thing.

P.S. I'm so glad you stopped by to read about the adventures at our house! If you want more, "Like" my blog on Facebook to get posts (and the articles n things I wish I had time to blog about) in your feed. Wanna see all the projects and ideas that I may or may not get around to? Follow me on Pinterest. Thanks for stopping by!

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