Parenting - Natural and Logical Consequences

Knowing when to require a child to obey and when to let them take the consequences of an independent choice is always a tough dilemma for parents. One pair of ideas that can help them are the twins: natural consequences and logical consequences.

Natural consequences are the reality-determined effect of some choice a child has made. Burning a hand on a hot stove is the most obvious and extreme example. No intervention on the parent's part is needed to show the child the connection between its ill-chosen action and the bad result.

Feeling the effect of failing to stick to a commitment is a better, and typically safer, scenario. A child promises to save money in order to buy a bicycle. But he or she yields to temptation and spends the money instead on worthless junk that quickly breaks, then still expects to receive the bicycle.

In these cases, the parent need do nothing but simply allow the child to see the cause-effect relationship between choice and consequence. One of the advantages of this method is it works both ways. When the child makes a good choice he or she benefits, and in two ways. They have enacted something that results in a value to them, and they achieved that value independently. Those two reinforce one another in a positive feedback loop.

But, most parents (rightly so) won't allow a young child to rush out into traffic to see for themselves the result of failing to look both ways. There are times when it's necessary to employ logical consequences instead.

Logical consequences require the active participation of a parent in producing the outcome. But the parent makes clear that the parent's choice is logically related to the choice made by the child.

Failing to return a video on time results in a late fee. Subtracting that fee from the weekly allowance is a logically related consequence, directly connected to the child's failure to keep a commitment.

Sometimes more serious circumstances exist, where the consequences may be severe. A sixteen-year old girl who has unprotected sex with her seventeen-year old boyfriend risks becoming pregnant, a possible natural consequence. But a logical consequence can be employed to teach a lesson without enduring that degree of risk.

Those logical consequences can be as creatively diverse as the parents who are faced with the situation. They may involve severing the relationship between the pair - which rarely works. They may involve requiring more extensive supervision, restriction of the freedom to go to the mall or a dozen other alternatives. No 'one-size-fits-all' solution is possible, since teenagers are all individuals. But employing a logically related consequence is typically much more effective than mere punishment.

There are times when it's safe to allow a child or teen to experience the natural result of their actions. In other cases, the consequences are too severe or long-lasting. Knowing when to employ which method will always be a difficult choice for parents. Let experience be your guide.


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