Natural and logical consequences: How implementing them leads to better discipline in children

Exploring an alternative to time-outs as a means of discipline may prove to be beneficial to both your child and your household.

Raising an independent and responsible child can be a tough task. Often, parents use ignoring and time-out as a form of discipline or punishment. Unfortunately, this technique doesn’t always hold children responsible for their actions; however, something called “natural consequences” and “logical consequences” does. 

A natural Consequence is something that results “naturally” from a child’s action or lack of action without adult supervision. For example, if a child refuses to get up in the morning she may miss the school bus. The natural consequence would be that the child would have to walk to school. 

If a child refuses to wear a coat on a cool day, the natural consequence is that he will get cold outside. 

A logical Consequence is one that is designed by a parent or caregiver. A good way to think about it is as a “punishment that fits the crime.” You have to make it make sense. Parents will often take something away from a child for doing something wrong, but it has nothing to do with the “crime” the child has committed. For example, you may be tempted to ground your child from play time if he steals from a store. A logical consequence, however, would be to take the child back to the store and give the stolen goods back, apologize to the owner or manager and have him do an extra chore.

A logical consequence for a child who repeatedly rides her bike in the street after being told not to, could be told to park the bike. 

A lot of parents use the same consequence for every “crime.” Time outs – “grounding” them – or taking away an activity or object they enjoy. Natural and logical consequences hold the child accountable and responsible for their mistake and will help them make up for the error they made.

Remember natural and logical consequences work best for recurring problems and should be age and developmentally appropriate.

For more articles on child development, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

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