Choices. Everyday we make choices. It is from making choices that we learn responsibility and how to behave. When we choose unwisely and experience the consequences of our choices, the lessons we learn are more powerful than any lecture or punishment. If we as parents are savvy, we can use natural and logical consequences as strong teaching tools.
Natural consequences follow what would naturally happen, without adult intervention, from what children choose to do or not to do.
We know that even though we try to tell our children the oven is hot, and try to keep them safe, children don’t learn what hot is until they get burned.
The natural consequences of touching a hot oven is a burn; of not wearing a hat is cold ears; of not eating breakfast is being hungry and irritable; of leaving toys out in the rain is ruined toys; of forgetting to put the ice cream away is melted ice cream.
Not all situations lend themselves to being taught or learned by natural consequences. Creating a safe environment is always a primary parenting concern. Natural consequences cannot be used if the results are catastrophic. We can’t teach, “Stay away from the pool, or you might drown.” Events may occur too far in the future, such as “If you don’t learn to save money, you won’t be able to retire.” Some consequences may be too abstract, such as “If you’re rude to your friends, they won’t play with you.”
Logical consequences are results we choose as parents to show what logically follows when our children violate family values or social requirements.
Let’s take an example.
The Problem: Betsy dawdles and watches TV instead of getting dressed for school.
The Consequence: Betsy has to go to school in her pajamas and get dressed at school or in the car.
We can give choices about logical consequences with either/or choices or when/then choices. For example: Betsy, either get dressed before you watch TV, or you’ll have to go to school in your pajamas. You decide. Or: Betsy, when you get dressed, then you can watch TV. You decide.
Give the choice only once, then act. See continued misbehavior as the choice. Also, don’t give choices that you are not prepared to put into effect. Logical consequences are not punishment. Logical consequences need to be presented in a friendly and supportive way and shouldn’t be used to issue demands or threaten children.
Another possibility is to discuss the consequences beforehand. “Betsy, if you’re not dressed for school when it’s time to leave, what should happen?”
Let natural and logical consequences help you teach your children how to be responsible and make wise decisions.
Remember, logical consequences are not punishment, but instead allow your child to clearly see the choices he or she has for behavior and the consequences of those behaviors. Either get dressed in time, or you go to school in your pajamas. When you’re dressed for school, then television.
Be prepared to put the consequences into effect, which may mean dealing with tantrums and tears. If Betsy isn’t dressed at the designated time, be prepared to escort her to the car with her clothes. Don’t give second chances. If Betsy is watching TV and is not dressed, be prepared to turn off the TV, unplug it, carry it out of the room or whatever is needed to follow through with the consequence.
Timely follow-through is essential. In most situations, thankfully, we only have to follow through once or twice because children learn quickly, and logically, that certain choices just aren’t worth the consequences.
You won’t be a mean parent. You’ll be a parent that means it.