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The Importance of Consequences

Our three-year-old daughter challenged us a lot this weekend. But I could write that sentence almost anytime. She is strong and stubborn and delightful and hysterical, all at the same time. My wife and I adore and encourage her strength. But we also believe in strong parenting, and rules and limits. Which means we lock horns with our daughter quite a bit.

When we ask her to do something, and she doesn’t immediately comply, we tell her that we are going to count to three, and if she hasn’t complied by the time we get to three, “there will be consequences.” We used the same strategy with our son, who is several years older than our daughter. It always worked with our son, and so far at least, it has always worked with our daughter. Neither child has ever dared to find out what the consequence will actually be. (This always makes us laugh, because we are not quite sure how our consequences will be perceived. Maybe they will think, “that wasn’t all that bad.” Which means the next time, they will ignore us pretty easily.)

Emily and I talk all the time about our “parenting principles”… what is important to us as parents, what we think will be necessary for our children, what is non-negotiable, what is flexible, etc. We love to talk about things in advance, and to have some core principles organized in our minds. Because it is easier to talk about things in calm moments. When things are stressful, no one will take the time to discuss “their core principles.” When under stress, you are simply trying to survive the moment, and that is when having those core principles will be most important.

One of our core parenting principles has always been the importance of consequences. If you choose to disobey us, there will be consequences for you. And you get to make the choice between compliance or consequence.

This is a business blog, not a parenting blog (although often the lines seem blurry between the two), so I will make my transition. In your workplace communication, if you are ever trying to convince someone to do something (adopt your strategy, support your idea, fund your project), try to find a way of showing them the cost of not doing what you are asking for or recommending. Show them what the alternative will look like if they don’t follow your advice. Don’t threaten them. But also don’t be afraid to show what the alternate path will look like. What will the cost be to do something else? What will our risk profile look like? What opportunity will be missed?

In other words, show them the consequences of not following your recommendation.

Good luck, and have a great day!

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