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Why consequences don’t work—and what to do instead

Young children simply cannot think about how an action will affect them later. Here’s what you can do instead.

Why consequences don’t work—and what to do instead

If you have a preschooler, you will know they don’t pause or think twice before acting or reacting.


In the heat of the moment they won’t tell you one part of them wants to scream at you while the other side of them thinks they should use their quiet voice instead. They don’t contemplate or reflect before they act. They are moved by their impulses, emotions and instincts unless they are following an adult who is directing them.

They are like fast cars without any brakes and tricky steering systems.

The preschooler’s impulsive way of being in the world is not a mistake or a deficit in them but part of a natural developmental plan. For healthy brain development to unfold, a young child can only attend to one set of signals, emotion or thought at a time.

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Like a horse with blinders on, they only see the thing, person or emotion that is right in front of them.

This allows them to make sense of their world one piece at a time before allowing the full picture to come into view. It is ironic how young children live in the moment while adults spend time and money trying to recapture this same experience.

Why preschoolers lack emotional control

Adults can sometimes struggle with the lack of emotional control in young kids, even taking their actions personally. The prefrontal parts of the brain responsible for a child’s impulse control will likely mature between the ages of 5 to 7 for most kids or 7 to 9 years for more sensitive ones. Until the 5 to 7 shift occurs—giving rise to more sophisticated brain integration—a young child will have little to any braking capacity when stirred up emotionally.

As a young child’s brain develops and integrates, they will start to show signs of mixed feelings, thinking twice before reacting, reflecting and being able to consider the impact of their actions on others.

The young child will start to be able to hold two things in mind at the same time: their action and the consequence of it. They will be able to keep a secret, tell boldface lies and even understand the puns in knock-knock jokes. They may start to pause before they react, or shudder—but not erupt as they once did.

For example, one 5-year-old child said to her father after screaming at him, “I am sorry Daddy, I tried to hold it in but my neck couldn’t take it any longer.”

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Why consequences don’t work with young children because

Parents routinely give young children directions on how to behave such as, “Use your words instead of hitting,” or, “Promise me you won’t scream like that again.” While a child may eagerly obey with good intentions to do as requested, these instructions seem lost again in the heat of the moment.

This isn’t intentional but developmental: They simply lack impulse control, don’t think twice and are focused on the moment—not on the outcomes of their actions.

Although the consequences of their actions may dawn on them after, it certainly doesn’t stop them from reacting in the moment because they are singular in focus. We need to keep giving them directions while also remaining cognizant that they live in the moment and not in the outcome based world like we do.

Giving a preschooler discipline that is consequence-based has little effect in changing their behavior and can create an adversarial relationship. What is often eclipsed from view is how their lack of brain development makes consequences ineffective.

Consequences don’t teach young children to be mature. It is the 5 to 7 shift that brings to a close the majority of their untempered, impulsive behavior.

They will increasingly be able to think before they speak or act. It is then they will consider the impact of their behavior before acting on a more consistent basis. For example, a 6-year-old child paused and said with frustration to his mother, “I don’t want to brush my teeth, but I also don’t want to get cavities either.”

It is as if all the years of telling them why we want them to act or behave a certain way “sinks in” and they can start to realize their good intentions.

If a child does not have good intentions and doesn’t want to follow the directions of their adult, there is little discipline that will be able to change this. Kids follow the people they are attached to and who care for them; it is our relationship with them that allows us to point a child in the direction we want.

There is a lot of dignity realized for a young child who enters the “age of reason” between 5 and 7 and recognized they actually do have a steering wheel and a braking system to temper all of their strong emotions and behaviors.

Some of the best discipline strategies with young kids are simple: supervision by adults who can collect and direct the child appropriately and in soliciting their good intentions.

Until then, the best bet for an immature young child is to be attached to an adult who is mature.

These are only the vitamins I give my children and here's why

It's hard to say who loves these more—my kids or me.

When I became a mama five years ago, I didn't put too much thought into whether my son was getting the right vitamins and minerals. From breastfeeding to steaming and pureeing his first bites of solid food, I was confident I was giving him everything to support his growth and development.

But then the toddler years—and the suddenly picky palate that accompanied them—came along. Between that challenge and two additional children in the mix… well, I knew my oldest son's eating plan was falling short in some vitamin and mineral categories.

I also knew how quickly he was growing, so I wanted to make sure he was getting the nutrients he needed (even on those days when he said "no, thank you" to any veggie I offered).

So when I discovered the new line of children's supplements from Nature's Way®, it felt like a serious weight off my chest. Thanks to supplements that support my children's musculoskeletal growth, their brain function, their immune systems, their eyes and more, I'm taken back to that simpler time when I was so confident my kids' vitamin needs were met.*

It wasn't just the variety of supplements offered by Nature's Way that won me over: As a vegetarian mama, I'm the picky one in the family when it comes to scanning labels and making sure they meet our standards. The trick is that most gummy vitamins are made with gelatin, which is not vegetarian friendly.

But just like the other offerings from Nature's Way that I've already come to know and love, the children's supplement line is held to a high standard. That means there's no high-fructose corn syrup, gelatin or common allergens to be found in the supplements. The best part? My two oldest kids ensure we never miss their daily vitamins—they are so in love with the gummy flavors, which include tropical fruit punch, lemonade and wild berry.


Nature's Way Kids Mulitvitamin


Meanwhile, my pharmacist husband has different criteria when evaluating supplements, especially when it comes to those for our kids. He appreciates the variety of options from Nature's Way, which gives us the ability to rotate the vitamins based on our kids' daily needs. By keeping various children's supplements from Nature's Way on hand, I can customize a regimen to suit my kids' individual requirements.

Of course, high-quality products often come at a higher price point. But (to my immense gratitude!) that isn't the case with Nature's Way, which retails for a competitive value when compared to the other items on the shelf.

Like all mamas, my chief concern is supporting my children's health in any way I can. While I see evidence of their growth every time I pack away clothes they've outgrown, I know there is much more growth that doesn't meet the eye. That's why, for my oldest son, I like stacking the Brain Builder gummy with the Growing Bones & Muscles gummy and the Happy & Healthy Multi. My 3-year-old also enjoys getting her own mix to include the Healthy Eyes gummy. And both of my older kids are quick to request the Tummy Soothe tablet when something isn't sitting right in their stomachs.* And I'll admit it: I've tried it myself and the berry blast flavor really is tasty!

Although my current phase of motherhood may not be as "simple" as it once was, there is so much to appreciate about it—like watching my kids play and sing and create with their incredible imaginations. Along the way, I've eased up on some of my need for control, but it does help to have this range of supplements in my motherhood tool kit. So while I may not be able to convince my son to try kale, having the Nature's Way supplements on hand means I do know he's right on track.*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.


This article was sponsored by Nature's Way. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

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International Network for Aid, Relief and Assistance (INARA)

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