Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Natural Consequences

Discipline, discipline, discipline.  As a parent you see so many books out there on the topic and so many variations it can be overwhelming! I've blogged about the main one I use as a play therapist, Limit Setting, but there are other parts to it too, such as using it with Natural and Logical Consequences.  I'm sure you've heard of Natural and Logical Consequences, but wondered where the heck it falls in with everything else out there? Of course I will be posting again and again on this topic as it will resurface throughout my life as a parent!

What exactly are Natural and Logical Consequences?

Well, the 'Natural part' is basically letting your children learn right from wrong on their own but with a little push from their parents.  It's letting your child learn from experience. For instance, if it's raining outside and your child goes out to play without an umbrella, then they will get wet.  They'll learn that they need to get an umbrella next time they run outside.  That is a natural consequence.

Today my daughter was about to tip over a lamp and I thought to myself, "hmm, the lamp could fall on top of her and sure, she would learn that if you pull on a lamp, it will fall.  But at 10 months, she is just not quite ready for natural consequences." I know, pretty funny, but you'd be amazed at how many parents think children at this age should, "know better." Seriously?

So the second part to natural and logical consequences is the 'logical part', and that is making the punishment fit the crime.  Now, assuming you are already setting limits and communicating them to your child so they know what is acceptable or not, you give them a consequence that fits the limit.  You use the limit setting and choice giving that you are already very good at, and add the natural/logical limit.

Here's a good example: Your child gets mad at their brother and throws the remote control across the room while watching their favorite show on TV.  You communicate the limit, and match the consequence as much as you can to the limit: "I can see you are mad at xyz, but remotes are NOT for throwing.  If you choose to throw that remote, then you chose to turn off the tv for the rest of the day."  So in this example, throwing the TV remote will cause them to not watch TV for the rest of the day.  See how they're related?

Another example with younger children would be if you have set the limit of not standing up on the slide when on a playground.  If you set the limit again, you give a logical consequence: "I know how fun it would be to stand up on the slide, but slides are for sitting on. If you choose to stand up again, then you choose to not play on the slide for the rest of the day."

You don't say," if you choose to stand up again on the slide, you choose not to play with your Wii when we get home", or "you don't get to watch your favorite TV show."  You match the consequence as closely as you can to the limit.

It takes knowing what your child is capable of at each age and where they are developmentally.   A 5 year old is capable of knowing that if she throws a toy, it might break and then she won't have that toy anymore!  But a 1 year old is just not there yet.

What is the point of Natural and Logical consequences you ask?

-It helps your child learn to think for themselves

-It teaches morals and right from wrong

-It teaches them problem solving skills

They will start thinking on their own that, "if I do this, then this will happen" and they will be little self-sufficient beings.  Don't we want our children to be able to survive in this world without us one day?  Hard for us to think about, but one day they will be on their own in this big bad world, and we want them to know what to expect and what the consequences are to their actions.  We will be happy moms when we know that our children have grown up to be independent and excellent problem solvers, even though they will always be our little babies :)



  1. So hard to think our kids are going to grow up- but so true we need to teach our kids to learn on their own!

  2. Yes, that is the hard part! I learned in school that it's best not to bail our kids out of every single problem, that they need to learn for themselves or they will never be able to do anything on their own and rely on us 24/7. Not cool when they are 35 years old and we still do their laundry :)

  3. When would you say they are ready? My daughter is almost 2 and we are using it a little. She seems to have very little self-control, though, (being only one year old and all 8) ) so it's hard to tell if anything is sinking in.

  4. I think it depends on your child and what you think they understand. My child is 14 months and still does not understand how to be gentle (give soft touches) to others and our dog, but that is appropriate for her age. If you think your child is ready to understand the consequences, then you can start now. You can also slowly guide her to show her 'this is what happens when..." "we pull too hard on the chair, it can fall over on you", etc... But keep trying and it will sink it! :)