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This school year, I’ve noticed a common theme when meeting with teachers and school staff. I often hear them say students don’t have any consequences for their behaviors and it makes it difficult for them to get them to be responsible at school. One teacher said she has a student whose parent didn’t believe in consequences for young children.

In an effort to help the teachers develop strategies to work with kids who don’t complete or turn in homework, study for tests or do other beneficial school activities at home, I realized I was beginning in the wrong place. Parents must be involved in setting guidelines and helping children understand the consequences for their behaviors.

Teaching children obvious consequences (if you spill milk, you’ll have to clean it up) when they are young, helps them understand consequences they may not be able to immediately see when they’re older. For example, if you don’t study for your test you’ll probably fail it.

A consequence is described as something that follows naturally from an action, inaction or poor decision. The best consequences, especially for young children, are those that teach them something. The long-term goal of teaching children consequences is preparing them for adulthood. A short-term goal is helping them be the best student they can be. When children experience consequences at an early age, they learn to become responsible for their own choices as they get older.