The discussion about natural vs. logical consequences is broad and standard, yet many aspects of it are often overlooked. In the following article, I will take you step by step through the challenges posed by logical consequences and how to use natural consequences effectively.
The Misconception of Logical Consequences
When I googled natural vs. logical consequences, the first statement I saw was that both result from the child’s decisions. However, children younger than eight are often not capable of the process required to make a decision; they do not weigh options, don’t consider the future, and act upon impulse.
Logical consequences are the direct result of a parent’s decision. But unfortunately, it takes many years of this sort of logic to affect a child’s behavior because children lack impulse control.
Logic is Arbitrary
Another challenge posed by logical consequences is that logic is personal; what’s logical to you is not necessarily logical to me, and what’s logical to both of us is probably not logical for most children.
Children who visit friends and family are often confused by the different logics applied in different families, and because kids are smart – they start challenging and questioning parental logic. If anything, this works against the connected parental authority we aim to achieve.
What are Natural Consequences?
If this sounds like a weird question to you, I get it! Sure, if a child breaks a glass – the glass is broken. If a child spills milk all over the floor – there’s milk all over the floor.
Here’s where it’s important to remember that children learn from experience, from the actions they take, and from observing how these actions play out in the world. There’s no benefit to saying “be more careful”; they know it themselves. Likewise, there’s no benefit to preventing them from using glass dishes until they can handle them properly; this will lead to a sense of incompetence and mistrust.
Children observe natural consequences by themselves and learn from these experiences with our warm encouragement.
“There’s milk on the floor; let’s clean it up. Do you want to do it yourself, or do you need my help”?
Where Logical Consequences Just don’t Work
Indeed, broken glass or milk on the floor is easy; that’s not where parents struggle.
But what happens when a child hits his sibling? What happens when a child swears or uses hurtful words to a sibling or a parent? This is where parents often turn to logical consequences that have nothing to do with what happened, taking privileges away, or resorting to different punishments.
These practices only build more anger and resentment in a child’s heart. An angry child who feels resentment towards a parent or a sibling is more likely to repeat the same behaviors he was initially punished for.
The #1 Most Overlooked Natural Consequence
This is where I turn to your heart, Mama, and wish to remind you of the only natural consequence that actually works. This consequence represents YOUR boundaries or the boundaries of another, be it a child or adult.
Feelings. We human beings – we have feelings. Everything we do and say comes from our feelings. When fellow human beings take actions that hurt us, our hearts respond. That’s where we wish to protect our humanity; our feelings. Where we are compelled to stand up for our boundaries and say, “that hurts, and when I hurt, I don’t feel like playing,” for example.
How to Use Natural Consequences Effectively
Children are Emotional Beings. Children feel emotions; they understand emotions and relate to them. So when we talk about feelings, when we shed light on the feelings of another, we help our children develop empathy, a natural skill we all possess (to various degrees).
No one ever wants to hurt another; what we seek, in every action, is to empower ourselves.
The younger a child is when we expose him to this knowledge, the younger he is when he starts looking for strategies that empower him without hurting others.
Why is it So Hard?
Most of us grew up without this knowledge; we grew up believing that feelings are something to experience in loneliness and overcome silently. We were not taught to stand up for ourselves and protect our boundaries. As a result, so many of us don’t know what our boundaries are.
When we shift our point of view from behavior to feelings, it suddenly becomes easy.
When a child hits his sibling, we do not react to him as “bad” or misbehaving; we don’t even talk about him. Instead, we talk about the sibling’s feelings, show curiosity about whether the child wanted to hurt his brother, and investigate the heart behind the action.
As a result, we increase our child’s understanding of the human soul, increase the connection between him and his brother, and connect him to his own heart. We give sibling rivalry no reason to intensify and defuse it entirely with time.
This is how natural consequences work and why YOU will benefit from choosing natural consequences over logical consequences every time.
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