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Natural and Logical Consequences: Examples and Uses

Laura Kuehn, LCSW
Written by Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Natural and logical consequences make sense as a discipline strategy, but often parents struggle to come up with ideas of their own in the heat of the moment. Here we explain what these types of consequences are and some examples to get you thinking in the right direction.

Parents often tell me that while they might “get it” in their heads (meaning parenting principles and concepts), they have a hard time translating head knowledge into action. Unfortunately, children don’t come with an owner’s manual. But we can equip ourselves with tools to make our efforts more effective. Natural and logical consequences are one such tool. This post will provide some basic information regarding natural and logical consequences and examples of how to implement them in your home.

What are Natural and Logical Consequences?

These types of consequences are just what they sound like: consequences that come about because of a natural progression of events. They are applied in a very matter-of-fact (but not biting or retaliative) way in an effort to teach the child a family value or rule.

Natural consequences are those that happen naturally (refuse to eat=hungry). Logical consequences are connected to the child’s behavior but require the intervention of a parent (won’t turn off game when asked=no game the next day).

For Which Behaviors are they Effective?

Please note: this advice is intended for “neurotypical” children. A child with autism, ADHD, or high sensitivity would require a more nuanced approach. Consequences are not always effective at teaching a child with ADHD. Behavioral approaches that focus on positive reinforcement and rewards have been shown to be effective with these kids.

Regardless of the child, when implementing consequences, parents need to consider the skills their child has acquired, their capacity for change, and their emotional loading.

The following are some examples of when a parent might choose to use natural and logical consequences:

  • When a child has a history of making the same mistake over and over
  • When the child is demonstrating problems related to personal responsibility (cleaning up after himself, putting things away, etc)
  • When the child is developmentally ready to utilize his decision-making skills

For Which Behaviors are they Ineffective?

Sometimes a natural or logical consequence is not sufficient. There are some situations when a parent will need to dig a bit deeper and address ruptured relationships caused by misbehaviors or possible other factors at play. Here are a few situations when natural and logical consequences would not be sufficient:

  • When the child has physically harmed another person or property
  • When the child has offended someone in some way
  • When the child is refusing to do homework (it’s important to assess for an underlying learning disability)
  • When there is an issue of safety

Children who have displayed behaviors that cause ruptures in relationships need to find a way to make amends. The sibling relationship is an important one to protect and foster.

Examples of Misbehaviors and a Natural and Logical Consequence

Problem Behavior

Natural and Logical Consequence

Child forgets musical instrument at home for the third time in a row. The instrument stays at home.
Child refuses to shower despite efforts to increase compliance. Child develops body odor and will have to deal with social repercussions from peers.
Child does not put laundry in hamper as asked. Only the clothes that appear in the hamper on laundry day get washed.
Child screams in the house after being told not to. Child is sent outside to play.
Child does not pick up toys after being asked. Child loses the privilege of playing with those particular toys until the ones that remain are picked up when asked.
Child does not come to the table when called. Dinner stops being served when the rest of the family is done.
Child does not put baseball glove away when asked. Child has a wet baseball glove for practice.

Parenting requires a “diverse portfolio.” We cannot simply rely on one technique or idea and try to apply it to all situations. Sometimes natural and logical consequences are just what the situation calls for. Other times, we will need to implement another approach. It takes wisdom and discernment (and often mistakes) to figure it out.

As with every parenting intervention, it’s always good to start with the word “why?” Once we can figure out what might be underneath the behavior, we will be in a much better place to address it effectively.

Photo credit: phaewilk from morguefile.com

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment from a qualified mental health professional. Cornerstones for Parents is not liable for any advice, tips, techniques, and recommendations the reader chooses to implement.

About Laura

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura is a licensed therapist who offers individual and parent counseling to residents of Connecticut. Cornerstones for Parents is the place she combines some of her favorite things: writing, parenting and God's word. She is happily married with a young adult son and a teenage daughter.

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