Cause and Effect



One concept that I REALLY want my kids to understand is — Consequences.  They are young, my daughter just turned 9 and my son is about to turn 13, so now it the time.  I really don’t want them learning this concept for the first time as they drive the family car on their own.

So where do I start?

Working full time, the time with my kids is precious.  When teaching moments come along, I need to grab them.  One morning this week, I had an opportunity.

My daughter was running really late that morning.  We needed to be out the door by 7:40am in order to get through a construction zone on our route, drop her off at her Summer Art Camp and drop off my son at his Summer Outdoor Camp (shameless plug: ).  For him, we meet a van and they head off on various adventures at different locations each day.  If you miss the van, you’ve got trouble.

We were in such a hurry to get out the door, that it wasn’t until we were well on our way that I went through my mental checklist for the morning.  My kids have learned to take on the majority of the responsibility for getting themselves ready each morning, including waking to their own alarm, getting dressed, making their bed, making and packing a sack lunch, getting their own breakfast and remembering to comb their hair and brush their teeth.  But they still need a little oversight. 🙂

Backpacks, sunscreen, oh no, I turned to my daughter, “Did you remember to make a lunch for today?”

“Uh oh.”

I didn’t respond like a perfect mother, “What!?  What are you doing to do for lunch!”


OK, I need to recover from this.  I need to be grateful for the fact that usually she gets it all done AND is ready to head out on time. I also want her heading off for the day on a positive note while also learning from this mistake.

This is my opportunity.  If I just solve this problem, nothing is learned.  But if I involve my daughter in the process of solving the problem. this turns into a teaching moment.

I looked back at my daughter through the rear view mirror, “We will figure something out.  You know, you’ve got some new things going on in your morning routine.”

She just got her ears pierced the weekend prior and is learning how to clean them herself which is taking some time.

“Did you know that when anybody has a change in their routine, it can mess them up?”

Her eyes got big and the tears stopped, “Really?”

“Yes.  since you need to clean your ears each morning, you should just plan to get up a little earlier tomorrow and then you won’t be late and you won’t forget to make your lunch.”

She already seemed to feel better.  I want her to realize she made a mistake but I also want her to know that I can understand WHY mistakes happen and we can come up with ideas to keep mistakes from happening again.  Today, it’s forgetting to pack a lunch – very trivial.  But when she’s a teenager, these things will probably be a bigger deal so I want to get this kind of dialog started now.

Next opportunity – problem solving.  Instead of just solving the problem, I just thought out loud to involve my daughter in the problem solving process.

“If we stop at the store first but hit bad traffic with all that construction, your brother might be late.  And then we’ll have to drive to wherever his camp activity is today.  We don’t want to solve one problem and create another.  Let’s get through the construction and see how much time we have.  If we are running late, we’ll drop off your brother first, and then go to the store and then get you to camp.  That will make me late for work, but I can work later tonight since your dad is picking you up.”

Elsie agreed that was a good idea.  She also understood that she was going to be making me late for work and that this wasn’t a good thing.  She started brainstorming other ideas on where we could go to find lunch stuff as well.

As it turned out, we breezed through the construction, found a convenience store to grab some lunch items, dropped her off first as usual and still got both me and her brother off on time.  And she still wanted to give me a hug goodbye as I dropped her off for the day.

My daughter learns from these moments and I know she’ll get up a bit earlier tomorrow.  She’s learning cause and effect, consequences, problem solving and that her mistakes can negatively impact others — all great life lessons that we need to find opportunities to teach.

As a side note, because of my son’s Autism, I can’t have conversations like this, but I KNOW he’s taking it all in.  By having these moments with my daughter, my son is learning from them, too.

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