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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Parenting Tips: Consequences - part 2

I said last Thursday how tired I get of discussions of logical vs natural consequences, preferring to focus on effectiveness rather than punitive.  But I promised to explain why I said people tend to misuse the terms logical and natural consequences.

Too often people describe natural consequences as ones which directly connect to the misbehavior.  They talk about taking away cellphones and enforcing extra homework time and other enforced consequences.  These are NOT natural consequences.  They may connect. They may be a good match to the "offense." That is was makes them good logical consequences. Natural consequences are automatic reactions to a behavior. They are not consequences a parent imposes. In fact, a parent has no control over true natural consequences.

Example:  When your child steals something from a store, you don't trust them the same way as you did before you found out they stole.  You can't help it.  The next time they go in a store you worry.  The next time you see them with gum you didn't buy for them, you wonder.  That loss of trust is the natural consequence. You didn't choose it. It happened. You can't stop it. It happens naturally. In fact, you can't even control how long it lasts.  A natural consequence often lasts longer than the misbehavior that caused it.  How often have you seen a child's reputation as a liar continue even after they begin telling the truth again. That is because the loss of belief is a natural consequence of their lies. 

Parent trainings should help parents understand natural consequences and know how to use them to encourage children to value and protect, preserve or regain a positive reputation. We need to label natural consequences for our children so that they can understand and learn from them. We can be on their side as they work to deal with or they work to reverse the natural consequences.  Society and nature are imposing those consequences, not us. For a change we can be the teammate, their cheerleader and coach. Go team!

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