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Natural consequences are those things that happen in
response to your child's behavior without parental
involvement. These are imposed by nature, society, or another
person. You do not actually deliver a natural consequence
yourself. Instead, you allow nature or society to impose the
consequence on your child by not interfering.
|Stays up late and is late for school
||She feels tired the next day, the
teacher is angry and makes her stay after school.
|Refuses to wear mittens
||Her hands get cold.
|Refuses to eat dinner
||She feels hungry.
||She feels "high" and gains
acceptance from peers. She may be suspended from
school if caught.
|Shoplifts clothes at store
||She gets free clothes. She may be
caught and arrested.
|Plays with cigarette lighter
||She burns her hand or possibly sets
the house on fire.
|Leaves toys out in the rain
||The toys rust or are stolen.
Natural consequences are a very effective form of
discipline. However, you can see from the examples above that
natural consequences do not always deter behavior. Here are
some examples of when natural consequences do not work:
you interfere with a natural consequence it will not
work. For example, by fixing a later meal after your
child refuses to eat dinner, you will stop the
natural consequence of hunger. You are also
encouraging the unacceptable behavior by responding
with special attention. Similarly, by forcing your
child to wear a coat, she will not experience the
natural consequence ofbeing cold.
- Your child's misbehavior can be encouraged by a
natural consequence. For instance, shoplifting
without being caught results in free clothes.
- Something you see as unpleasant, like cold hands, may
not matter to your children.
- The natural consequence may be too
dangerous. Never allow the natural consequence to
endanger the health and safety of your child. For
example, playing with matches may lead to a fire.
Natural consequences only work if they are undesirable to
your child and you do not interfere. Carefully choose the
conditions when you allow natural consequences to occur and
they will be very effective.
Test Your Knowledge!
Choose a response to each situation
below using natural consequences when appropriate. Click the
letter next to the response you choose.
Victor leaves his tricycle outside.
||You leave the tricycle outside
and tell Victor, "If you leave your tricycle
out it will rust or be stolen."
||You put the
tricycle in the garage.
||You tell Victor,
"If you don't bring that tricycle in, I'm
going to be very unhappy with you."
2. Situation: Gabriel refuses to
wear a coat outside even though it is cold and rainy.
||You say "Don't be
ridiculous!" and put the coat on him.
||You slap him and yell, "I'm
tired of arguing with you over every little
thing. Put that coat on now!"
||You allow him to go outside
without his coat.
Shantelle refuses to do her homework.
||You send her to bed without
|This punishment is imposed by the parent, so
it is not a natural consequence. It is also
unrelated to the misbehavior, so it is not good
discipline either. Try again.
||You say "Let me help you
with that. It looks pretty hard, but I bet we can
figure it out."
Seven year old Kim is using a sharp axe to build a
||You scream " Kim! Put that
down immediately!" and spank her.
||You scream "Kim! Put that
down immediately!" then explain the danger
and offer to help her find a safer way to build