Let kids learn for themselves the consequences of their actions

March 24, 2017 18:08
Children gain precious lessons from something that they experience first hand. Photo: Xinhua

I recently attended a dinner banquet hosted by a charity that is devoted to helping visually impaired people in Africa regain their sight.

The host asked all the guests to eat while blindfolded. 

Strange though it seemed, I immediately understood the purpose of the request. We could only relate to the suffering of the blind if we put ourselves in their place.

Eating in the dark may seem exciting, being a new experience for us who know it is only a temporary and artificial condition.

But it certainly is no fun at all for those who have to live in darkness every moment of their lives.

In my case, I found it extremely hard to put food into my mouth when I could not see anything, let alone know what food I was eating and how much was still left on my plate.

When I removed my blindfold, the joy I felt for regaining my sight was indescribable.

The experience, though simple, was very educational indeed.

I could not help but think that parents should let their children learn for themselves the consequences of their actions, even if such actions may result in unpleasant or even painful experience.

Sometimes it is necessary for parents to make children feel the pain that results from their bad behavior so that they can learn from it and refrain from such a behavior.

If parents only tell their children about the consequences for their bad behavior, they might just ignore the warning because they really don't understand the consequences as they have not experienced them.

To be sure, parents don't want their children to suffer. But I believe that sometimes only suffering can make them correct their bad habits or wrong perceptions.

As the proverb says, “example is better than precept”.

Many parents tend to help their children with their homework because they find it hard to see their kids staying up late when they should be relaxing or resting, or because they want to help them get good grades.

But such an attitude could take away from their kids the opportunity to make faster progress in learning because the teachers' remarks and corrections on their mistakes could push them to work harder.

A mother recently told me that her son used to drag his feet in the morning on school days, causing his father and sister to be often late for work and school as they all leave the house together in a car.

She always told her son of the effect of his bad habit not only on himself but also on his father and sister, but the kid wouldn't listen.

One day the father got tired of waiting and left without him, forcing the kid to go to school on foot and be late again.

The one-time but painful experience turned out to be very effective, according to the mother, who said her son has never been late for school since.

Children are good at mimicking their parents’ moves, including the way they talk and act.

So instead of just telling them what to do, parents should let their children learn for themselves the consequences of their actions and behavior and gain precious lessons from the experience in the process.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 16

Translation by Taka Liu

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Founder and Principal at JEMS Learning House