Culture Teaches Children There Are No Consequences for Actions

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Image Courtesy of            Everybody_ Loves_Raymond_ (show)


Okay I have a confession to make, I love watching stupid comedies.

My favorite is Everbody Loves Raymond. Even while watching an episode for the tenth or fifteenth time on netflix I still find myself laughing hysterically [1].

Of course it isn’t the deep plotlines of this program that draws me in since almost every episode goes like this:

  1. Raymond makes a stupid mistake
  2. He tries to keep it a secret from his wife
  3. She finds out in an incredibly funny way

Actually Everybody Loves Raymond is an escape to a world where every problem is fixed in a half hour, and there is no real pain or stress. This is okay for adults who understand the real world doesn’t work like that, but for a child’s mind this can create serious problems.

You see almost every television show deals with challenges in a way that doesn’t fit with the real world.

  1. The wife always forgives her husband for his stupid mistake right away
  2. The good guys always find out how to catch the bad guy in the last ten minutes
  3. The good guys always win, the bad guys always lose
  4. And most importantly there are never any serious consequences that can’t be fixed right away

Again there is a place for this in our culture since we need an escape from a world filled with stress and insanely busy schedules. However children growing up watching shows like this can get the idea that the real world actually works this way.

And culture uses this to teach children there are no real consequences for their actions other than saying your sorry [2]

Of course this goes deeper than just television since authority figures such as teachers or parents demand a child apologize after doing something wrong, but often won’t follow that up with punishment.

I personally struggle with this since it’s hard to discpline a child who is crying while begging for “one more chance”, however I’ve learned to be tough because that one chance usually becomes four or five.

My biggest motivation for implementing consequences is it prepares that child for the real world where saying sorry isn’t going to fix everything.

As a teenager I hit a mailbox with the right-hand mirror of my familys van one afternoon. In a moment of panic (and stupidity) instead of stopping and retrieving the mirror I left it in the middle of the road.

Of course it wasn’t there when I came home that night so the smart thing to do was tell my parents. Instead I went to bed and hope they wouldn’t notice (they did)

In that situation I was sort of buying into the “tv worldview” that said everything was going to work itself out without my having to admit my foolish mistake. But it became a very clear example that things don’t work like they do on television

It’s not enough to say sorry
You have to replace the mailbox
Pay for a new right-hand mirror
And go for two weeks without driving on your own

It’s tempting to combat this idea of no consequences by going to an opposite extreme and becoming stricter with the children, however that won’t really fix the problem.

Instead it’s necessary to create a very clear system of consequences and patiently teach it to the children. One that we use in our after-school program goes like this.

  1. First warning: Child is reminded of the consequences of actions (two more warnings and no more candy)
  2. Second warning: Child is moved to another seat away from friends and teacher reminds him/her that one more warning means no candy
  3. Third Warning: Child is moved to a chair by themselves (separated from other children, won’t get candy) and is reminded that one more warning means they have to leave the room
  4. Fourth Warning: Child is taken to another class, or the school office

By constantly reviewing our four warning system every child knows exactly what happens if they disobey (they may not like it, but will understand).

Television is an awesome release for children and tool of their imagination, but there must be a firm system of expecations that helps them understand reality

  1. It’s gotten to the point where I will laugh in anticipation of what’s coming in the episode  ↩
  2. Raymond after apologizing for his fooish mistake is always forgiven  ↩

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