Empower Kids with Natural & Logical Consequences
Imagine a child who makes good choices on his own. Think of a child who takes care of her things, is nice to others, and goes to bed on time. Envision a teenager who is respectful of adults, responsible with chores, and comes home at a reasonable hour. And imagine all this happening without you having to nag, yell, or spank. Does it sound too good to be true? Your child can learn to govern himself when you use two very simple techniques, known as Natural and Logical Consequences.
Natural Consequences are exactly what they sound like: children are allowed to experience the actual, or natural, result of their behavior. This provides a powerful lesson the child will understand and remember, helping them to make choices in the future from an experienced perspective.
Some examples are:
Your preschooler will not sit in her seat and eat dinner; she runs around the room and plays with her food. You remind her of the appropriate behavior and that dinner will be finished soon, but she continues misbehaving.
When the family finishes eating, you clear the table and put the food away. The child has eaten nothing, and will be hungry till the next meal. You ignore her whining for snacks and lovingly remind her, “we will eat again soon for lunch.” She does not starve from one meal missed, and at the next meal, she is much more interested in sitting and eating.
Your 11-year-old son has been reminded to put his new skateboard away, which is on the front porch. He ignores you and continues playing his video game.
You don’t nag or put the skateboard away for your son. He wakes up the next morning to find it has been stolen from the porch. He is devastated. You are sad for him and give empathy but do not lecture about it. He listens better to reminders in the future and begins taking better care of his belongings.
Your 9-year-old daughter leaves her new coat at school. Again. For the umpteenth time this month, even though you reminded her to bring it home.
Rather than jumping in your car and driving down to the school to retrieve the coat (which would be a consequence for you!), you do and say nothing about it. The next morning, waiting for the bus, your daughter is cold without her coat. She feels the actual consequence of not having her coat and reminds herself to be more responsible with her things.
Of course, there are times when this consequence would not be appropriate, such as when the temperature is too cold to go without protection. In this case there is still a natural consequence you can use. Your daughter could wear her old, slightly too small, out-of-style coat from last year. You can say, “Good thing you have this old one to wear, so you don’t have to freeze.” In this case, having to wear a less comfortable coat or one she no longer likes is the natural consequence.
Benefits of Using Natural Consequences
Natural Consequences are king when it comes to positive parenting. There are numerous benefits and almost no down side to this technique. Some benefits include:
- It’s simple, uses common sense, and requires almost no work for the parent (other than remembering to just let it happen rather than stepping in with a punishment.)
- It’s extremely effective and efficient, because the child learns exactly what results from that specific behavior. It also encourages future thinking of possible consequences that might come from their actions.
- It prepares them for adulthood, which is filled with Natural Consequences.
- The parent doesn’t have to be the bad guy. There is no nagging, yelling, or spanking. The bad behavior becomes the thing the child wants to avoid in the future.
- The limited but loving words the parent uses encourage trust and listening from the child.
Keep in Mind
A few things to remember when using Natural Consequences are:
- Avoid the temptation to lecture about why that was a bad choice. Lecturing often takes away from the effect of the natural consequence, because it distracts the child from determining for himself why his choice turned out badly.
- Resist the urge to protect your child from the consequence (unless it will cause permanent harm to them…see below) Saving the day may make you a hero for the moment, but it deprives your child of a valuable learning experience that may cost them dearly down the road.
- This is an opportunity to show an increase in love to your child. Give empathy and validation to her crisis, without judgement. Instead of saying, “I bet you’ll think twice about that next time!” you can give a hug and say, “Aww, that really stinks. I hope that goes better next time.”
What if the Natural Consequence of your child’s behavior would be inappropriate or ineffective? Maybe it would cause them permanent harm or even death. Or maybe they wouldn’t care about the Natural Consequence. This is when Logical Consequences can be used.
A Logical Consequence is one that a parent provides, that is closely related to the behavior. It can be as effective as a natural consequence, when done properly.
Here are some examples:
You have told your child to stay in the yard when playing outside, but he keeps running out into the street to chase a ball.
Your child could get hit by a car and hurt badly or even killed. This would NOT be an appropriate consequence!
You say, “It looks like you are having trouble staying in the yard. So we will only play inside today.” He does not get to play with his ball or be outside. The next day when he goes out, he is better at remembering to stay in the yard.
Your 4-year-old daughter made a crayon mural all over the wall. You have reminded her to draw on the awesome art paper you bought her. You return to the room 15 minutes later to find her again coloring on the wall.
The wall has crayon marks all over it. This is an ineffective consequence for your daughter, because she does not see a problem with it. In fact, she thinks it’s a lovely mural!
You say, “You seem to be having trouble keeping the crayons on your paper, so we will need to put them away for awhile.” I have had a lot of success blaming the behavior on the object—“These crayons are having a hard time staying on the paper, so they need to have a time-out.” Your daughter throws a fit, but the crayons stay put up for awhile. You help her clean the wall, and later, when she is allowed to try again, she does a better job coloring appropriately.
Benefits of Using Logical Consequences
The benefits for this technique are similar to those for Natural Consequences, except that they require a little more effort for the parent. You do have to think about the best consequence for the behavior, but with a little practice, it will become very natural for you.
Keep in Mind
A few things to remember with Logical Consequences:
- The more closely related the consequence is to the behavior, the greater the learning experience for the child. For example, if an object is causing problems, that object gets taken away. Giving a punishment that is not at all related to the behavior (like spanking) requires more thought process to make a connection. The child may miss the lesson altogether and just think you are being mean.
- Resist the urge to give in or withdraw the consequence because you feel guilty. Remember, you are not being mean, you are giving them a learning opportunity!
- It’s important to not seem vengeful when providing a consequence. Try to think of it as helping the child learn to make good choices rather than punishing him for being bad. Always try to keep an empathetic and loving attitude.
How They Empower Kids
Probably the best thing about these two techniques is that they perfectly prepare kids for real life. Our world is full of Natural and Logical Consequences. Blow your whole paycheck on gadgets and eating out…not enough money for your needs. Drive recklessly…get in an accident or get a ticket. Don’t pay your electric bill…they shut off the electricity. You get the idea.
By allowing kids to experience consequences of their behaviors from an early age, they begin to start thinking about potential consequences and proactively making better choices.
They see the reason something is a bad idea; not just that Mom or Dad doesn’t want them to do it.
It gives them more power over their own life, because they can make choices based on possible results, rather than just be controlled by their parents.
These are all advanced thinking skills that can be used in many areas of life. Many of us don’t develop these till adulthood, but your child can have a head start by learning them now!
Give it a Try!
Think of a common behavior problem your child is having. What is the Natural Consequence of this behavior? Is is appropriate? Would it be effective? If not, what is a closely-related Logical Consequence you could use to help correct the behavior?
Next time the behavior happens, give it a try. You may find it extremely effective for your child without much stress for you!
What’s Your Experience?
What are some behaviors currently happening with your children that need correction? How can you use Natural or Logical consequences? What are some situations you’ve had that Natural or Logical consequences worked great for? Leave a comment with your ideas!