Dad-of-7 Shares His Parenting Technique of Making Kids Face ‘Consequences’

A father-of-seven is flying in the face of helicopter parents everywhere by refusing to rescue his kids from difficult situations.

The adult world can seem like a scary, intimidating place to a young person. It is a parent’s responsibility to prepare them for that. However, research suggests that’s a responsibility many are failing to live up to.

A 2019 C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health found 87 percent of just over 2,000 parents thought they were doing enough to prepare their teens for the adult world. However, just 46 percent said their teenage kids were capable of saving money for the future, while only 41 percent had confidence they would eat healthy food.

Maybe that’s why Dr. Richard Wadsworth from Missouri he reacted to his daughter in the way he did one morning in late fall last year. He told Newsweek how, in a rush to get to the school bus, she had forgotten to pick up her shoes for gym class and asked if he might be able to drop them off at school.

A part of him wanted to say yes, but instead the answer was no. He had spoken to her previously about the need to get ready for school in a timely and organized manner. Now she would suffer what he defines as the “natural consequences.”

“This is how my parents raised me,” Wadsworth said. “It was my responsibility to use my alarm clock, get myself dressed, do my chores, do my homework, and get myself to the bus. If I failed to do these things, my parents did not ‘rescue me.'”

A father of seven kids aged from 1 to 13, he said that by helping him to be responsible with small things, his parents set him up to handle more without them when he was older. “When I transitioned to adulthood, I was already accustomed to cleaning up after myself, making my food, doing my laundry, caring for my vehicles, getting myself to work on time and all of the other responsibilities associated with adulthood,” he said.

Wadsworth is more qualified than most to address this issue. A medical doctor who has authored books on ADHD, mental health, marriage and parenting, he has seen the impact that failing to properly prepare children for the adult world can have in his professional life. “I have many patients who suffer from severe anxiety or who struggle to care for themselves as they were not prepared and set up for success at a young age by their parents,” Wadsworth said.

“Once they became adults, they expect their ‘mommy’ to clean up after them and make them food and get them to work on time and do their laundry for them, and so they either become horrific people to be married to, or they struggle with terrible anxiety from not being accustomed to having the weight of responsibilities.”

But others think differently. Wadsworth shared the story of his reaction to his daughter forgetting her gym shoes to TikTok. It has proven divisive.

Some applauded it. “This is called a life lesson,” one user wrote. Others were less convinced. “The lesson I learned from this was my dad wasn’t there for me,” another posted.

A mom commented: “I dropped off forgotten lunches, homework, instruments. We have 3 successful young men, fully launched. Take her the shoes.” A fellow parent added: “Have 4 high schoolers. I taught them I had their back. Now they confide in me & still learned to help themselves. I taught them if I can help, I will.”

Wadsworth said that the approach had paid off with his daughter, though. “Since that happened, she has not forgotten her shoes even once and has made it a practice to get ready first,” he added.

However, Wadsworth acknowledged drawbacks to the approach. “When my kids are stressed, it is emotionally painful for me and it also makes me feel stressed and sad,” he said. “Parenting the right way is harder than parenting the wrong way. It often doesn’t feel good right away.”

From left: Dr. Richard Wadsworth; and his kids. The dad has a different approach to parenting, and it’s not always easy, but he’s seen results, he told Newsweek.


The key, he says, is to keep a balance between loving and supportive. “It’s not like I never rescue my kids,” Wadsworth said. “But I have found that, in instances where I have done this in the past, the kids sometimes fail to learn to be responsible.”

Dr. Ray Christner, Psy.D., NCSP, ABPP, has extensive experience working with children and parents and specializes in cognitive behavior therapy. He told Newsweek that Wadsworth’s approach is a valid one, in the right context.

“The use of natural consequences as a parenting strategy can be effective for certain issues,” Christner said. “However, parents must consider the child’s age and context of the situation to determine if it is appropriate and will be effective. It should only be used in safe and nonthreatening situations. So, if they refuse to wear a coat, then they are cold. Also, it is better with older children, and younger children might not make the connection between situation and consequence.”

Wadsworth agrees that the context of the parent-child relationship is crucial. “It depends on the kid. It depends on the quality of your relationship with them. It depends on the situation and the temperament of the child,” he said.

“You need to be loving and kind and careful with your kids’ emotions. If you never play with your kids and then refuse to help them with something because they weren’t being responsible, but you never taught them how to be responsible, this isn’t good parenting.”

However, Wadsworth said it can be applied from an early age, if you start small. “Let’s say that your 4-year-old has some toys, and you think that they may be receptive to learning about picking up after themselves. You can explain to them that when we are done playing with toys that we put them back in the toy bin,” he added.

“The first few times you can explain to them that this is their responsibility, and you can explain that you are going to show them and teach them the first few times as you clean with them and lovingly remind them. You can help them understand that a logical consequences of things being left out too often is that they go into storage for a while.”

Christner definitely sees positives and negatives to Wadsworth’s approach. He said: “The positives to using this as a strategy is that it can show real-life consequences and build responsibility. It can also promote problem-solving skills.

“However, this can result in some kids feeling unsupported. Sometimes, they might not understand the connections between their actions and the consequences. So, doing this alone is not recommended,” Christner added.

Wadsworth would agree with this last concern, though. That’s why he is at pains to stress that the strategy of refusing to rescue comes from a foundation of love and support from an early age. His approach works only if the relationship between parent and child is strong.

“Any form of discipline isn’t going to mean much or is likely to be taken the wrong way if you don’t have a strong relationship with your kids first,” Wadsworth said. “If you have not spent the time on your hands and knees playing with your kids and talking to them and then you allow them to have natural consequences, then the natural consequences are more likely to be interpreted by your kids as abandonment or the absence of love; they will just be left feeling like you don’t have their back.”

Wadsworth added: “But if your kids know that you love them more than anything; if you spend quality time with them and give them hugs and talk to them and spend time with them very frequently, and you explain that you are allowing them to have natural consequences because you care about them and that it will help them to be more responsible, then the lesson will be more likely to hit the right way.”

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