Some years ago I learned that over 85% of adolescents believe that consequences can only be negative, undesirable and to be avoided. When I explained that it’s possible to have a good consequence the kids thought that was an oxymoron or a contradiction of terms. I said that consequence is synonymous with result and that depending on the choice, the consequence can be either positive and constructive or negative and destructive.
As I pursued the reasons why most kids believed the negative association with consequences, it became clear that parents had, in many instances communicated a message or a response that “suffering the consequences” was a punishment for making a bad choice. They had not communicated that it’s possible to have a “good” consequence. Parents weren’t alone in this communication as teachers and other adult authority figures beam the same message, consequences are undesirable. Actually, they are unavoidable as there is a result for every choice we make. How can we help others learn from the choices they have made and learn in advance for the choices they are yet to make?
One way to help people learn the choice/consequence relationship is to ask them to provide examples of both kinds of choices , good and not so good, and to consider the results of those actions, behaviors or choices. By examining their own personal choices there could be a greater likelihood for them to internalize the message rather than an adult providing the example. Then, ask those same people to make some projections into the future. Since every choice now in front of them is either in the present or the future and past choices cannot be changed, they can realize that they have greater power to influence the outcome in the next choice. Ask what might they like to change if they really had an opportunity to do something over again. What can be learned from that careful, thoughtful review?
In order to change the outcome or at least influence a result which might be more to our liking, it’s important that we consider the options in advance. We might even want to review the choices and see what others might be available and not limit ourselves to an either/or proposition. There could well be a third or even fourth option yet to be considered. One specific example is when someone is faced with a yes or no request, a third option could be to wait and get more information. That could yield a more intelligent choice with a better outcome (consequence) than projected originally.