Conscious Parenting, Positive Discipline

No More Punishments: How to Effectively use Natural and Logical Consequences

It is a huge misconception that conscious parents do not discipline their children. Here at Conscious Parenting Time, we view discipline as a vital aspect of parenting. So much so, that it's reflected in #CPTism #7.

As conscious parents, we recognize that children thrive on well-defined structure and boundaries and we give them the freedom and autonomy to navigate their world within those parameters (more on that in a later post). When our children inevitably act in ways that are undesirable, we address with natural and logical consequences.

It's important to re-think how the world traditionally views discipline and punishment. In our "What is Conscious Discipline" post, we talked about how discipline and punishment are NOT the same thing.

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To discipline, in the context of parenting, is to teach; to provide the child with the knowledge and tools to be successful in behaving within well-defined structure and boundaries. It is forward-focused and encourages not only changes in future behavior, but also the connection between the parent and child.

To punish, on the other hand, is to inflict suffering for undesirable past behavior. While some may argue that punishing children also encourages changes in behavior - we challenge you to consider - at what cost? As a parent, do you truly enjoy punishing your children? Whether it be sending them to time out, using corporal punishment or blanketly taking away privileges -- after you punish them, do you walk away feeling encouraged that you and your child are on the right path to changing their behavior?

We're here to encourage you to say, "No more" to punishments and to add conscious discipline tools and techniques to your parenting repertoire.

How to Effectively Use Natural and Logical Consequences

The foundation of conscious discipline is natural and logical consequences. A consequence happens as a result of something a person does. Letting children experience the natural or logical consequences of their actions teaches responsibility, develops resiliency and improves decision-making skills.

We will work through two examples:

Sue, 6, repeatedly forgets to tie her shoes when they come undone.

Bobby, 13, left his homework at home.

Natural Consequences

Natural consequences are pretty straightforward because they happen as an automatic result of the child's behavior. There is no need for the parent to step in or interfere, because well...'life' happened.

Let's discuss natural consequences through the context of our examples:

Sue, 6, repeatedly forgets to tie her shoes when they come undone.
Because Sue didn't tie her shoes, the natural consequence was that she tripped over her shoelaces and skinned her knee.

Bobby, 13, did not complete his homework assignment.
Because Bobby did not complete his assignment, Bobby does not have his homework to turn in.


Bless his heart. He already feels bad about it.

In both of these cases, the parent may choose not to inflict any additional consequences because the natural consequence was sufficient. In these cases, we recommend to follow up the natural consequence with a respectful, empathetic conversation around how the natural consequence makes the child feel and what they can do to to avoid that feeling in the future. Sue was upset by the fact she now has a skinned knee and Bobby is now nervous that his teacher may not accept the late assignment.

It is our recommendation, if possible, to let the natural consequences of a child's behavior play themselves out before getting involved. We understand; however, that there are times when this is not practical.

Read: Don't be telling folks CPTime told you natural consequences were enough in situations such as:

  1. When it is not safe or the child is in danger. Nope. We're not going to let our kids experience the natural consequence of playing in the street and you shouldn't either.
  2. When the behavior is inherently dangerous and/or imposes on the safety or rights of others. It's also not okay for our children to physically harm or invade the personal space of others.
  3. When the child is unbothered by the results of the natural consequence. Let's be real, some children (and adults) don't care about their personal hygiene, healthy food choices or failing grades. We encourage you to go on ahead and step in in these cases.
  4. When the behavior is a trigger for you and dances on your very last nerve. We encourage you to set limits and boundaries to protect your own sanity, but you have to be honest with yourself here. Evvvvverything can't be a trigger for you and, if so, you have some introspective work to do as to why.

Logical Consequences

Logical consequences are imposed by the parent and are directly related to the offense. There is some thought and logic (see what we did there?) that has to go into imposing an appropriate logical consequence. We find it helpful to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What undesirable behavior am I trying to address?"
  • Are there any circumstances or unmet needs that may be contributing to my child's behavior that need to be considered and/or addressed?"
  • What lesson am I trying to teach my child?"
  • If my child were to come to me and ask me for help with this issue, how would I help him? How would I support her in closing this skill gap?
  • Is an additional consequence necessary, or was this accomplished with the natural consequence and follow up discussion?

Let's go back to our examples:

Sue, 6, forgets to tie her shoes when they come undone.
What undesirable behavior am I trying to address?
Sue forgetting to tie her shoes. I'm concerned she's going to get hurt while playing.

Are there any circumstances or unmet needs that may be contributing to my child's behavior that need to be considered and/or addressed?
She's just excited and doesn't want to take time out from playing to tie her shoes.

What lesson am I trying to teach my child?
That it's important to make sure our shoes are tied.

If my child were to come to me and ask me for help with this issue, how would I help him? How would I support her in closing this skill gap?
I would have a discussion with her around the importance of keeping her shoes tied. I also may consider getting her velcro shoes to wear when she's playing to prevent her from tripping over her shoelaces.

Was there a natural consequence and follow up discussion? Yes. She skinned her knee and in the follow up conversation she said it hurt and made her feel sad. I empathized and asked her what she thought she could do to prevent that from happening again. She said she would be more careful and would stop and tie her shoes whenever she saw they were undone. I asked her if there was anything she needed from me to help her and she said no. I offered to get her velcro shoes (a possible logical consequence) and she said she wanted to try her plan first and she would me know.

Is an additional consequence necessary, or was this accomplished with the natural consequence and follow up discussion?
At this time, a logical consequence is not necessary.

Bobby, 13, did not complete his homework assignment.
What undesirable behavior am I trying to address?
Bobby forgetting his homework at home. He seems to be forgetting a lot lately and not managing his time well.

Are there any circumstances or unmet needs that may be contributing to my child's behavior that need to be considered and/or addressed?
He's involved in a lot of activities at school, so he may be feeling overwhelmed with his new, added responsibility and commitments.

What lesson am I trying to teach my child?
The importance of staying on top of our commitments which include responsibilities at home, his schoolwork and extra-curricular activities.

If my child were to come to me and ask me for help with this issue, how would I help him? How would I support her in closing this skill gap?
I would ask him what system he currently has in place to make sure he knows what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. Based on his answer, I would help him to come up with a plan and help put in place some structure and boundaries to help him be successful.

Was there a natural consequence and follow up discussion? Yes, the natural consequence was that he was unable to turn it in. We talked about him not completing the assignment and how he was concerned about his grade. He committed to having a conversation with his teacher about how he forgot to do it and to ask if there is an opportunity for a partial credit once he did complete it. Her response was, "No", he is currently dealing with the emotions of his teacher-imposed logical consequence (a failing grade on the assignment).

Is an additional consequence necessary, or was this accomplished with the natural consequence and follow up discussion?
While I do believe the natural consequence (not having the assignment to turn in) and the teacher-imposed logical consequence (a failing grade on that particular assignment) were 'appropriate', I don't believe he has the tools to be successful in managing his commitments going forward.

I plan to work with him on writing out his assignments/commitments weekly and reviewing them with him on a daily basis.

 

Punishments or Ill-logical Consequences

You may be thinking, "Well, punishments 'work' for my child!". And, honestly, you may very well be 'right', but we challenge you to re-frame your view of 'working'. Whether punishments 'work' truly depends on what your end goal is:

Quick compliance? Sure! If you threaten a child with a punishment, it is very likely that they will comply immediately.

Children that only behave when you're watching them? Uh huh. Carry on! Punishments are perfect for this!

The Re-frame

If your goal is to raise adults that are assertive as well as socially responsible, empathetic as well as self-assured, cooperative as well as self-regulated, punishments are not the answer. In fact, punishments can be counter-productive to all of those things because children spend their energy learning to avoid getting caught and then being angry or sad when they do versus learning the actual lesson.

2 Comments

  1. What is Conscious Parenting? - Conscious Parenting Time

    January 31, 2019 at 5:33 pm

    […] they need our compassion and empathy, NOT our condemnation. Letting children experience the natural or logical consequences of their actions is one way to teach […]

  2. Abri

    March 5, 2019 at 8:43 am

    Awesome article!

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