Posted By Jason Kreidman On October 10, 2017

Today in Episode 136 we are talking about natural consequences. What are they are why are they so effective?

Definition: Natural consequences to children are things that happen as a result of behavior (or lack of it) with no interference by an adult. The cool part is that you get to teach your children important lessons, without being the bad guy.

Here are a couple of examples:

1) If you stand in the rain, you’ll get wet. So when you ask them to put on a raincoat, bring an umbrella, or rain boots, they will get wet and probably be pretty uncomfortable.

2) If you don’t eat, you get hungry – How many times do we tell our kids to make sure they eat before they leave somewhere. If they choose not to and then get hungry, it’s not going to be fun.

3) If you forget your lunch, you are going to be hungry – Parents will often save the day by running back to the school.

4) If you forget your backpack, you will turn in your assignment late – Again, parents will often bring the backpack to school for the child.

5) If you don’t bring a jacket when it’s cold out, you will be cold – You can tell them it is going to be cold but until they experience it, they may not understand. They will begin to believe what you say.

6) If you don’t read the lesson or study for the test, you will get a bad grade. It’s up to them if they want to get good grades. Again, if your child is not concerned about their grade, you are going to have to figure that one out. This is probably your concern and not theirs. But for most, they want to do well and will remember when something is due.

The key with all of these is that you first have to have the discussion with your child about the consequences. You can’t just spring it on them as they may not understand what the risk is.

Also, this doesn’t work in every situation. For example, your child doesn’t put their clothes in the hamper. You might say, “only the clothes in the hamper are getting washed.” Yet your child doesn’t care about wearing dirty clothes. It’s certainly not going to work in that situation.

A big proponent of this is Jane Nelson, author of Positive Discipline. She also indicates there are times when natural consequences are not practical:

1) When a child is in danger (like playing the street)
2) Take time for training (typically use logical consequences, like a toddler crossing the street. Punishment does not work)
3) When natural consequences interfere with the rights of others
4) When the results of children’s behavior do not seem like a problem to them, they are ineffective (my laundry example)

The cousin to this concept is Logical Consequences. These are different in that they require the intervention of an adult. People often get them confused. If it requires any intervention from you, it’s a logical consequence. We’ll have to have another podcast about logical consequences.

So use natural consequences where you can. As difficult as sometimes it can be, you’ll begin to see behavior change as a result.