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Natural & Logical Consequences

Natural consequences are those that occur naturally in the environment; the child touches a hot stove, gets burned, and learns not to touch the stove. A logical consequence is logically related to the behavior; a child takes a long time to complete homework and misses television time.

The important aspect of natural and logical consequences is that it is not the parent that teaches the child through a punishment, it is the consequences, which naturally or logically occur that teach the child. Natural and logical consequences side-steps power struggles and control issues. It is not a parent versus child situation. It is parent on the child’s side, helping them avoid adverse consequences in life. The parent’s role is to warn the child about the consequences, not threaten it.

When explaining potential consequences, the parent should inform the child in a matter-of-fact tone what will happen if they chose to engage in a certain behavior. The child should be given the choice of engaging in the behavior and experiencing the consequences or not. Even if the consequence is ultimately administered by the parent, the choice is the child’s and therefore the responsibility for experiencing the consequence is also the child’s, not the parent’s. If the parent administers the warning and the consequence in anger, then the child will focus on the parent rather than the consequence and the lesson is lost.

Natural and logical consequences are usually put in an "If….then…" form.

  • "If you finish your dinner, then you can have dessert."

  • "If you wear your coat, then you will be warm."

  • "If you take the toy with you, you may lose it and be sad."

  • "If you take a long time getting ready for bed, then we won’t have time for stories."

  • "If you do not drive safely, then you will not be able to use the car."

If the child chooses to engage in an inappropriate behavior and experience an adversive consequence, then the parent can be supportive rather than angry. "I’m sure you are upset about not watching your favorite TV show, I thought that might happen and that’s why I warned you about the time. Maybe next time you’ll be able to finish homework before your show starts."

Obviously the parent will not allow the child to engage in dangerous behaviors and potentially experience harmful consequences. Also, at times a parental command and immediate response by the child will be necessary. In these situations, natural and logical consequences would not be appropriate.