How Using Natural Consequences Can Help You Parent

parenting Jun 15, 2020
How Using Natural Consequences Can Help You Parent

Telling your children what to do all the time is not always the best way to teach them to make their own choices. Worse yet, this approach can even create some resentment in your children, especially if they’re past the toddler stages. 

What if there were a better way to cultivate discipline, teach decision-making, and foster independence without arguing with your child? Fortunately, such a method exists, and it’s using natural consequences. 

Using natural consequences to your advantage allows you to instill discipline effectively in your kids. With this approach, your kids will also become more independent in their decision-making as they learn to work their way through problems. 

How do you use natural consequences to your advantage? Stick around to learn more. 

However, let’s begin with clearing up what we mean by “natural” consequences.

Natural Consequences vs. “Enforced” Consequences

Let’s look at two statements: 

  1. “If you don’t eat your dinner, you’ll go to bed hungry.”
  2. “If you don’t eat your dinner, I’ll take away your Playstation privileges.”

Both of these statements are if-then statements, meaning they present the consequences of a certain behavior (i.e. not eating dinner). 

However, the first emphasizes what will naturally happen. This is what a statement containing a natural consequence looks like. When presenting natural consequences to your child, you’ll want to tell them what can happen as a result of a certain behavior. 

What you shouldn’t do is present enforced consequences, as presented in the second statement. This approach will deprive your child of the chance to make lasting changes in behavior and can result in your kids resenting you. 

Worse yet, enforced consequences are a form of negative reinforcement or punishment. While it stops negative behavior, it does little to cultivate lasting positive changes or teach moral values.

Examples of When and How To Use Natural Consequences 

Now that you know what natural consequences look like, let’s go over some examples of when and how to use them. 

There are many situations where presenting what can happen will come in handy. However, here are some of the most common scenarios that dads encounter. 

Your Child Refuses To Eat Dinner

One of the most common challenges we have to deal with is getting our kids to eat what’s on their plates. Sadly, some dads address this situation by telling their kids about possible punishments like removing TV privileges. Again, this isn’t the way to create lasting behavioral changes. 

Instead, present the reality that your kids will go hungry and won’t get an alternative meal. It’s not a punishment, and it shows the reality that without dinner, your kids won’t eat until it’s time for breakfast. 

Your Child Leaves a Toy Outside

Besides not eating dinner (or finishing it), your kids are also likely to leave their toys outside. This is another situation where you can present the outcomes of not bringing toys inside. 

To let natural consequences work for you, you’ll have to either say or show that toys left outside are up for grabs. If your children lose a toy or two after leaving it outside, it’ll serve as a valuable lesson. As a result, your kids will be bringing their toys inside in no time. 

Your Kids Forget Their Lunches

It happens to every child, but it’s still something worth avoiding. To ensure that your kids always remember their lunches, they need to understand how forgetting their lunches results in them going hungry in school. 

Once your kids forget their lunches and experience hunger first-hand, they’ll be doing their best to pack their lunches every day. 

Kids Don’t Do Homework

What dad hasn’t dealt with a child who forgets or refuses to do homework? 

Kids not doing their homework is often a situation addressed punitively. While punishment can get your kids to start hitting the books, they’ll do so for the wrong reasons, which is to avoid punishment. 

A better approach is to simply allow them to not do their homework and let them experience what happens. The consequences they’ll encounter can be anything from a failing grade to even detention — outcomes every kid wants to avoid. 

When To Not Use Natural Consequences

Natural consequences work in a variety of situations, but there are some instances when you shouldn’t use them. 

1. When Dealing With Younger Kids

By “younger,” we mean younger than four years. Children at this age won’t make the connection between a natural consequence and a certain behavior. 

When you’re dealing with your younger kids, it’s best to simply tell them not to do something. You can use natural consequences later on when they reach school age. 

2. When Your Kids’ Choices Can Lead to Potentially Dangerous Outcomes

We caution dads against overprotective parenting. Nevertheless, it’s our job as dads to ensure that our children don’t suffer from any long-lasting injuries or negative outcomes. 

3. When the Choice Can Affect Other People

Using natural consequences is a learning tool. With that in mind, you should allow your kids to make bad decisions from time to time to fully understand the consequences of their actions. 

However, ensure that your kids’ decisions will not affect other people. When the decision affects other people, your child would be better off avoiding the action altogether.

4. When the Decision Affects Their Well-Being

Allowing your children to make decisions that can affect their well-being can have long-lasting effects. If your children refuse to brush their teeth, take a bath, wash their hands, or perform any action that’s good for them, place natural consequences on the back burner and tell your children to do as they’re told. 

Let Your Kids Learn Naturally

Natural consequences are great for teaching your kids to develop lasting positive behaviors. Also, by using natural consequences to your advantage, you can help your children develop their moral compass and decision-making skills. 

Leverage the power of what can happen, and you’ll be teaching your kids what they should do.

Watch the "Why Natural Consequences Are Great For Parents To Use" video here:

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