Natural and Logical Consequences

02 Mar

Cartoon: "Maybe I should have worn a coat."

What is this about?

The use of natural and logical consequences may be appropriate when your child’s behavior is unacceptable. The use of natural and logical consequences encourages your child to take responsibility for his or her own behavior and allows your child to learn from nature and society.

[Cartoon: Child cleaning rug thinking, "I hate cleaning the rug, it would have been easier to take my shoes off."]What will I learn?

  • What natural and logical consequences are
  • The differences between natural and logical consequences
  • How to apply natural and logical consequences to unacceptable behavior

What’s in it for me?

Using consequences as a method of discipline helps motivate your child to make responsible decisions, without forcing him or her to submit to authoritarian control.


[Cartoon: Staying up late and falling asleep in school]

Natural consequences are those things that happen in response to your child’s behavior without parental involvement. These are imposed by nature, society, or another person. You do not actually deliver a natural consequence yourself. Instead, you allow nature or society to impose the consequence on your child by not interfering.

Child’s Behavior Natural Consequence
Stays up late and is late for school She feels tired the next day, the teacher is angry and makes her stay after school.
Refuses to wear mittens Her hands get cold.
Refuses to eat dinner She feels hungry.
Smokes marijuana She feels “high” and gains acceptance from peers. She may be suspended from school if caught.
Shoplifts clothes at store She gets free clothes. She may be caught and arrested.
Plays with cigarette lighter She burns her hand or possibly sets the house on fire.
Leaves toys out in the rain The toys rust or are stolen.

[Cartoon: Leaving tricycle outside and having it rust]

Natural consequences are a very effective form of discipline. However, you can see from the examples above that natural consequences do not always deter behavior. Here are some examples of when natural consequences do not work:

  • [Cartoon: Eating a specially prepared late dinner]If you interfere with a natural consequence it will not work. For example, by fixing a later meal after your child refuses to eat dinner, you will stop the natural consequence of hunger. You are also encouraging the unacceptable behavior by responding with special attention. Similarly, by forcing your child to wear a coat, she will not experience the natural consequence of being cold.
  • Your child’s misbehavior can be encouraged by a natural consequence. For instance, shoplifting without being caught results in free clothes.
  • Something you see as unpleasant, like cold hands, may not matter to your children.
  • [Cartoon: father taking away matches and substituting a flashlight]The natural consequence may be too dangerous. Never allow the natural consequence to endanger the health and safety of your child. For example, playing with matches may lead to a fire.

Natural consequences only work if they are undesirable to your child and you do not interfere. Carefully choose the conditions when you allow natural consequences to occur and they will be very effective.


[Cartoon: Child skipping chores and then having to clean up yard]

Logical consequences are options you suggest to your child. They are different from natural consequences because they are presented by you instead of nature or society. You should choose consequences directly related to the unacceptable behavior. For example, if your child skips a chore have her do an extra chore; don’t take away TV. If she leaves a mess, have her clean two rooms; don’t ground her for a week.

[Cartoon: Parent to child "After you clean up your room, we can go play catch."]Other examples include:

  • You may turn the volume down or use headphones or listen to the radio in your room.
  • If your toys are not picked up before bedtime, they will be put in this box at the back of the basement.
  • If you won’t change out of your good clothes, stay in the house and find something to do inside.

You can give positive and negative consequences.

Positive consequences are things your children like. This varies for different kids. Examples of positive consequences are:

  • After you can clean your room, we can go play catch.
  • You may watch TV when you finish your homework.

[Cartoon: Parent to child, "No movie if you're not home for dinner."]Negative consequences are things your child does not like. Some examples are:

  • If you are not home in time for dinner, you may not go to the movie.
  • If you don’t bring your bike into the garage, you will not be allowed to ride it tomorrow.
  • If you will not honor my request for help then I will not honor your request for a ride to a friend’s house.

It is important to emphasize the positive. Give more positive consequences than negative.


[Cartoon: Giving a consequence]

Here are a few guidelines for giving a consequence:

  • Give the consequence immediately following the unacceptable behavior. Don’t give the consequence tomorrow or next week.
  • Be clear. Your foster child may have a different definition of the task. Say “Make your bed and pick up your clothes and toys” instead of “Clean your room.”[Cartoon: Child wearing headphones to listen to music]
  • Give brief choices. Do not wander into a long discussion about irresponsibility. State the consequence in a sentence or two.
  • Be consistent. Do not give a small consequence one time and then a big one the next time for the same behavior. For example if the stereo is too loud, don’t suggest putting on headphones the first time, then ground your child for two weeks the next time.
  • Follow through. If your child earns a positive or negative consequence, always give it to him or her right away.

How to avoid problems while giving a consequence:

  • Never use a threat, such as “You’re going to get it!” or “Do that again and I’ll break your neck.” Threats have no teaching value. A previously abused child may take you seriously and think you are going to harm him or her. A child acting out of fear will not be learning to problem-solve.[Cartoon: No bribes]
  • Do not confuse a consequence with a bribe. A bribe is a reward given in advance, for example, “I’ll let you go play if you’ll clean up your room later.” With a bribe your child is rewarded for inappropriate behavior, instead of earning the reward with positive behavior.
  • Be careful of giving too many negative consequences and not enough positive.
  • Do not let negative consequences snowball. Your child may taunt you by continuing to misbehave while you add consequence after consequence. You can find yourself in a position where you have promised more consequences than you can deliver. If you ground her for a year and take away her allowance, TV, and phone privileges you have very few consequences left for the next problem. Your child may also feel she has nothing left to lose and continue to misbehave.
  • Do not start with huge consequences. If you ground your child for a month right away, then what is next? If your child earns $100 sneakers for cleaning her room, she will expect more for larger jobs. Use the smallest possible consequence.
  • Don’t give up after a few tries. Consequences must be repeated consistently over a long period of time to have a lasting effect on behavior.


[Cartoon: Child taking off muddy boots to avoid cleaning rug]

The use of natural and logical consequences is an effective form of discipline.[Cartoon: Child wearing coat to avoid being cold]

  • It helps your child develop responsibility and a positive self-concept.
  • It helps your child learn to problem solve ways of getting more rewards for positive behavior.
  • It promotes self respect.
  • It helps maintain a positive relationship between you and your child.

When using natural consequences:

  • Choose the situation carefully. Don’t put your child in danger.
  • Let the consequence have its effect; do not interfere.

When using logical consequences:[Cartoon: Doing chores to avoid logical consequence]

  • Be consistent and follow through.
  • Use the smallest consequence possible.

Use positive consequences more often than negative consequences.

Article from:  The Washington State Online Foster Parent Class

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Posted by on March 2, 2011 in Parenting Tips


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