Discipline is complicated for parents. What's the best approach? Do you reward your child when she's doing things right? Do you take away privileges when shes does something wrong? Or is punishing your kids at all a bad idea?
A growing number of parents think using the concept of "natural consequences" is the best way to help kids learn to consistently do the right thing. Also known as "logical consequences," this approach to discipline revolves around helping kids make the connection between cause and effect, between their actions and what results.
Some Circle of Moms members find this parenting technique a little confusing, especially since it’s not always easy to figure out what the logical consequence should be when a child flouts rules or goes astray. To help, here are answers to four common questions about using natural consequences to discipline your children.
What are Natural Consequences?
The basic idea of the natural consequences theory of discipline is that children will learn from their mistakes and missteps when they have to face the consequences of their behavior. That is, the things that happen in reaction to what they have (or haven’t) done.
Circle of Moms member Jenni explained natural consequences are “usually followed by discussions with the child about 'cause and effect'.” For example, a child who falls off when jumping on on the bed has faced the natural consequence of getting hurt. It’s a consequence that didn’t require any interference by a parent, is memorable and clearly was caused by their behavior.
Circle of Moms member Melanie M. has started using natural consequences with her eight-year-old to help her learn responsibility. She listed some of those consequences to help other moms understand the technique:
- If she doesn't come in time for dinner, she eats her dinner cold.
- If she doesn't get ready for school, she misses her bus.
- If she doesn't get ready for bed, she loses reading time.
Are Natural Consequences and Logical Consequences the Same Thing?
Though the phrases are often used interchangeably, logical consequences are a little different from natural consequences. Member JuLeah W. explains the subtle difference well. “Natural consequences happen with no interference from us,” she says. “Logical consequences come from us and are the logical next step.”
Logical consequences are still tied to the action/behavior, but don’t just happen. You decide what would make sense to happen next and enforce it. Circle of Mom members provided the following examples of logical consequences:
- You color on the TV with your crayons, you help mommy clean the TV. ~ “Chatty”
- You throw your toy, you lose your toy for a while. ~JuLeah
- If you jump on the couch you have to sit on the floor. ~Nicole
Do Natural Consequences Work?
In many situations, cause and effect can be a very effective way to deter negative behavior, but it’s not perfect. As mom Kelly points out, even though it’s ideal to “let the children experience the natural consequence as often as possible," sometimes the consequence is too severe.
She uses the oft-cited example of a child running into the road. The natural consequence would be being hit by a car. That’s obviously not a lesson we can let children learn without interfering.
Other bad behaviors can actually be reinforced by natural consequences. When Courtney J. asked other moms what to do about her teenager continually missing the bus, many advised her to use natural consequences. If she missed the bus, she would have to walk, be late or miss school. While that’s a great motivator for a kid who likes school and wants to get there on time, for a kid who doesn’t want to go to school, using that natural consequence will help her get what she wants and won't address the issue.
Jaime B. sums it up well: “In a lot of situations, natural consequences do a good job of teaching kids about their behaviour, but there are also times that call for parental intervention.”
In other words, the natural consequences technique is a great tool to add to your parenting toolbox, but it shouldn't be the only one in there.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.