We’re probably all familiar with pictures of cute children’s rooms full of styled bookshelves, organized toys, and cute decorations hanging on the walls. But with my kids, this is something I can only appreciate from afar. My two boys (ages 3 and 5) long ago lost their privileges to keep anything accessible in their room other than stuffed animals and their bedding. My husband and I embraced this approach after our kids decided to pull down all their wall decor and stick anything that would fit down into the heating vent.
Losing that privilege was a consequence stemming from their behavior. Now, of course, we tried to explain why they shouldn’t send Legos into the air ducts, we tried putting them in time-outs, and even confiscated their toys. But it wasn’t until we embraced a more logical consequence that they started to understand.
After being raised in a very authoritarian household (where my parents did not shy away from corporal punishments) I knew that I wasn’t going to use a lot of the parenting methods I grew up with. My parents often set rules and consequences without explaining their reasoning to me and my brother. And we were often spanked with a wooden spoon if we misbehaved.
My parents often set rules and consequences without explaining their reasoning to me and my brother. And we were often spanked with a wooden spoon if we misbehaved.
So as I grew older and became more aware of how other families disciplined their children, I realized I not only disagreed with many of the methods my parents used, but also learned in college classes that they weren’t very effective. So I knew there had to be something better.
Embracing Natural and Logical Consequences
Natural consequences are a parenting method that embraces the natural outcome from the decisions that your child makes. It emphasizes that decisions have repercussions if we don’t follow the rules set by our parents, teachers, or guardians, and lets kids deal with what happens next (i.e., being cold when they refused to wear a coat outside).
Logical consequences are how a parent or caregiver responds when a child breaks a rule or misbehaves and the parent uses a more hands-on approach and chooses a punishment that correlates with the child’s missteps, and perhaps explains everything to the child. For example, if a child draws on their bedroom walls with markers, the parent could make the child clean up the mess and take away the markers for a few days.
Now, some parents use this method with a hands-off approach, but I personally believe it is more effective if we, as parents, use the moments to educate our children and open up a conversation. Here are three benefits of using natural and logical consequences as a parenting method.
1. It encourages teachable moments
The beauty of natural consequences is that it requires very little intervention on the part of the adult, except for having a thoughtful conversation with your child about what happened. When we allow children to experience the outcome of their actions in a safe environment such as home, it can help prepare them for situations in the long-term.
For example, a child keeping their room messy may experience the natural consequence of stepping on a pointy toy and can learn the importance of cleaning their room. It can be very helpful for a parent to then break down the events that happened, while also brainstorming with the child on how to move forward in a better way. After working with your child to create better habits, it can become second nature for them as they grow.
2. It prepares them for real life
One example of a logical consequence we used with our young toddlers occurred whenever we went out to eat in restaurants. Now, I promise you, I avoided eating at restaurants with two young children as much as was possible (especially now with COVID). But sometimes it just couldn’t be avoided when traveling to an appointment far away, and I would worry about my kids acting out or yelling in the restaurant.
At first, I tried to distract my boys with anything from snacks to games on my phone, and they all worked… but only momentarily. When we implemented natural and logical consequences, it meant either my husband or I would need to take the child acting out away from the situation: outside to walk around or into the car (depending on the weather).
We’d then explain that we are not allowed to scream and act out in restaurants, we are supposed to sit in our seats and eat our meals, otherwise they were not allowed to stay inside. This taught our children that screaming wasn’t acceptable and, if they chose to, we would consistently remove them from the environment until they behaved.
After using this method several times, our children quickly caught on and started acting more appropriately when we went out to eat. They were able to see they had control over how they acted in public (and in nice places like restaurants) but that there were rules they needed to follow to be allowed to stay and enjoy the experience with everyone in our family. By breaking down this type of learning into bite-size pieces, our kids are able to use the experience to shape how they choose to act down the road.
3. It focuses on consequences, not punishments
So many times, I found myself yelling at my kids or threatening to take their toys away to make sure they behaved. Of course, yelling doesn’t automatically make you a bad parent, it just wasn’t the way I wanted to parent going forward. Every time I yelled or took away a toy unrelated to the situation it left me wracked with guilt, and I knew I needed to try a different way for all our sakes.
My favorite part of embracing natural and logical consequences is that it allows my children enough independence to learn from their choices. They are comfortable with trying new things and know that my husband and I will help guide them if they make mistakes.