Parent's Guide to Natural and Logical Consequences
of life's important lessons to be learned is that actions have
consequences. It is the responsibility of parents to teach children
that behaviors and actions have consequences. Children (and sometimes
adults) don't always make the association between their behaviors
(actions) and the resulting consequences.
who experience consequences learn that they have control over them by
exerting control over their behaviors. In other words, children
learn they are free to choose their behaviors, as long as they are
willing to accept the consequences. Parents who use natural and
logical consequences are helping teach children that they can control their behaviors and
have the power to chose their actions.
adults think of punishment as a tool for changing a child's behavior
or teaching how he or she should
behave. Punishment, however, is not a “natural” consequence, nor
is it usually a “logical” consequence. This is particularly true
when punishment is handed-down out of a parent's anger and
definitions that follow will help with understanding natural and
logical consequences and how to apply them.
consequences occur automatically as a result of actions. Natural
consequences are things that happen to the child as a result of his
or her behavior, without
parental involvement. Examples: A child who does
not play by the game rules with other
children will not be asked to play the next game. Picking up a
honey bee with bare hands results in a stung finger. A teenager
caught driving later than the legal curfew has his permit suspended.
Children sometimes learn quickly from natural consequences, as in the
case of the honey bee. Other times, repetition of the natural
consequence must occur, such as learning to play by the rules.
Natural consequences do
not require parents to actively inject themselves into the situation.
Parents can simply allow the natural consequences to occur. Natural
consequences let the child learn, personally, sometimes the hard way.
Children should be allowed to take SAFE risks and learn from their
own decisions as much as possible. In other words, parents should
not rescue their children from all of life's “hard knocks.”
When the child's natural
environment provides safe, natural consequences and demonstrates
clear lessons of cause and effect, parents should allow them to
occur, rather than imposing additional consequences. When children
experience natural consequences, no lectures or lengthy comments are
needed; however, discussion may be helpful to the child if he or she
wants to talk the situation through with the parent.
Many times, natural
consequences are a good way to learn. At other times, natural
consequences are not the best way to guide children.
should NOT be used or allowed to occur in the following cases:
When the natural consequence is
dangerous or may be harmful to the
child. Examples: allowing the child to play in the street where she may
be struck by a car, or allowing a young child to climb in a tree, where
he might fall and be injured.
The natural consequence is
delayed for a long period after the child's action or
behavior. When the timing of the consequence is too far in the future,
the child does not associate the behavior with the consequence. This
prevents the consequence from impacting the child in a way that
positively affects the behavior. Examples: A child does not complete
her school work and fails. A child leaves his new bike out in the yard,
instead of the garage, and it rusts.
The natural consequence is not
isolated to the child, but also causes problems for
others. If allowing a natural consequence to occur causes problems for
others, including the parent, then it is not appropriate to allow the
consequence. Examples: Missing the bus results in a parent having to
drive the child to school. A skateboard left in the driveway results in
it being backed over by the car, damaging both.
Logical Consequences are
imposed by the parent. However, logical consequences are different
from punishment in some important ways:
require time and thought on the part of the parent. They need to be
planned in advance to be most effective. There are some basic
guidelines that can be helpful to parents in developing logical
Developing Logical Consequences
It is not possible to
apply a logical consequence to every misbehavior; however, setting
some general rules in advance can make applying consequences a
little easier when the situation requires it. Of course, setting
these rules should be done with the involvement and knowledge of the
child. Here are some possibilities that parents have used.
Of course, there are may
others, but this list provides a general idea of how logical
consequences can be developed in advance of misbehaviors and agreed
upon by both parents and children.