When considering discipline methods for your child, natural consequences can be one of life’s best teachers. There is often confusion about the difference between natural and logical consequences. What makes a consequence natural? Basically, a natural consequence is any act of nature that inflicts pain (physical or otherwise) and that requires no involvement from you, the parent.
Here are some examples:
- Your child pulls the cat’s tail and gets scratched.
- Your child runs across a freshly mopped floor and falls down.
- Your child is unkind to a friend and loses that friendship.
- Your child is a daredevil on his bike and falls off.
- Your child jumps in a puddle and has to walk in wet shoes.
Of course, you will do all you can to warn your child of the effects of his actions. But if he chooses to misbehave anyway, you allow the natural consequence to be his discipline.
Now, if you have told him not to pull the cat’s tail and he does so anyway, you allow the scratch to be his teacher. There is no need for additional discipline from you for disobeying your command. You will, however point out the pain of the scratch to show your child the importance of obeying you.
You will also console your child, but in your consolation you must not remove all blame from the child. Do not fault the cat for scratching the child. Don’t say something like, “Bad kitty.” What you will want to say is, “You hurt the kitty and she needed to defend herself, so she scratched you. Next time you will know what happens when you pull her tail. Here’s how we pet the kitty gently.”
Natural consequences work just as well with older children. If your child’s close friend uncovers a lie your child told, then it’s likely the friend will harbor resentment. Don’t blame the friend for her actions. Console your child when he’s upset about losing a friend, but don’t absolve him of all blame. Use the opportunity to explain why the friend feels the way she does, and discuss with him the effects of lying to the people we care about.
As you can see, natural consequences often do a better job teaching lessons than any correction we parents may give. Be on the lookout for natural consequences and allow life to be your child’s teacher. In my next post, I’ll discuss logical consequences.