Redefining Punishment for Children through Natural Consequences

Implementing natural consequences for children is an effective way of teaching them the impact of their actions. By allowing your child to learn from their mistakes in a safe environment, they’re more likely to understand how their decisions affect the world around them. Here’s a guide to help you cultivate this approach into constructive lessons for your child.

In days gone by, “discipline” frequently referred to taking away privileges as a consequence of bad behavior. You hit your brother, did you? One week without television. Didn’t you do your chores? Put off going to the shopping center. Traditional methods of correcting children may be effective in getting their cooperation in the short term; however, new research from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) demonstrates that these methods are not the most effective way to impart lessons that will last a lifetime, and in some instances, they may even be harmful.

These days, many authorities advise parents to let their children experience what is known as “the natural repercussions of their acts” instead. This is something that many specialists recommend parents do. Let your kid get chilly if they don’t wear their coat, and they probably won’t put up much of a fuss the next time you ask them to wear it.

Logical consequences require a greater involvement on the part of adults, but they are also tied to delinquency in the following ways: Your youngster is required to walk by your side and hold your hand for the remainder of the journey if they run out into the center of the roadway. Your child will be better able to understand and learn from the consequences of their actions if they are connected to this relationship.

It must be simple, right? The fact is that ideal corrective consequences won’t always be successful, but you’ll find that they’re useful in a much greater number of instances than you may think. The following are some suggestions for learning and accepting natural consequences, which can assist you and your child become accustomed to obeying them.

The Natural Consequences That Involve the Three “Rs”

According to Jane Nelsen, Ed.D., author of the Positive Discipline series, a consequence is more likely to teach a beneficial lesson when it is relevant to the situation, respectful of the individual, and appropriate. In terms of natural repercussions, there are three “Rs” to keep in mind:


It goes without saying that “connected” is the antithesis of “random.” Your child should have to clean up after themselves as a penalty for making a mess rather than being denied access to your iPad if they make a mess.


A consequence is considered “respectful” if it does not involve the recipient in any form of shame or humiliation. According to Dr. Nelsen, your kid already feels horrible about themselves when they do something wrong. Saying “I told you so” or embarrassing them afterward will prevent them from learning from the experience since they will stop thinking about what they did wrong. “I told you so” is an example of a phrase that falls into this category.


The term “reasonable” suggests that a consequence should be an activity that your child is capable of completing, taking into account their age and level of expertise, which is commensurate to the misbehavior they have displayed. This will assist them in focusing on what they’ve accomplished rather than on how much they despise you.

If your three-year-old is playing around and accidentally knocks over a carton of milk, you shouldn’t expect them to be able to wipe the entire floor by themselves to prove your point. Instead, pick up the pieces as a team and clean up the mess. If they reject, you lay your palm softly on top of theirs and physically execute the motion with them.

After you have cleaned up at least some of the mess, you can hold them in your lap if they are wailing uncontrollably, which will help calm them down. Once they stop crying and you can feel the stress leaving their muscles, congratulate them on being able to calm down and just get on with their lives.

An older child may give you backtalk instead of throwing a tantrum, but you should fight the impulse to get furious or allow them to get away with avoiding responsibility. By bringing out a potential consequence in advance, you can assist in defusing potentially explosive discussions ( “I have seen that there are many gum wrappers lying around the home. Please throw away the wrappers, else the consequence will be that there will be no more gum “).

When it is impossible to give them advance warning, you can assist them in developing potential solutions to a predicament they have gotten themselves into. As an illustration, you can remark, “You should feel awful that you forgot that the deadline for your project is tomorrow. I can appreciate that you’d like me to run out and get those supplies for you right away, but it’s becoming late, and I’m not willing to do that for you. Do you need some guidance in determining what you could make with the materials that we have available to us?”

There are four different approaches to developing effective consequences for children.

There is no correct way to let kids learn from their mistakes, but you can try these methods:

1. Make a connection between the tasks and the natural results.

If your child has disobeyed your wishes or broken the rules, then they are going to have to face the natural repercussions of their actions. On the other hand, a lot of parents have a hard time dealing with the fact that their children don’t do the things they should (like their chores), and the natural consequence (a messy house) doesn’t bother them.

Since there is no obvious correlation between doing duty and watching TV, threatening your child with no television time unless they sort their laundry is a kind of punishment. In other words, when you tell your child that if they don’t sort their laundry, then there won’t be any TV. Also, the statement “If you don’t…” sounds like a threat. However, you may make this a logical consequence by replacing the construction with “When you.” For example, you could say something like, “After you’ve completed folding clothes, you can turn on your television.”

Prior to doing what you wish to do, do what needs to be done. That is the lesson that you are teaching your children here, and it is likely one that you would like them to carry with them throughout their lives. However, once they have completed their work, they will experience the natural consequence of enjoying a pleasurable activity more because there is no chore hanging over their head. Your child may miss their favorite show that night and may not be able to discuss it with their friends the next morning. This is because there is no chore hanging over their head.

2. Present privilege as an inevitable byproduct of one’s level of responsibility.

Another credo that should be driven home is the idea that privilege is equivalent to duty. Our family has a rule that any toys left lying around at the end of the day are meant for the trash can and must be put back where they belong. My children are aware that if they do not demonstrate responsible behavior with regard to their possessions, the privilege of having those things will be taken away from them. One of my children, who is three years old, is exempt. I’ll have to ask him to put things away instead of just telling him to throw them away.

Not only does this work for real privileges, but it also works for intangible ones: If your child is unable to demonstrate that they are capable of handling the responsibility of playing well with their siblings, then they will not be permitted to play with their siblings. They will not be granted the pleasure of hearing their words if they do not courteously speak to you. On the other hand, rather than telling them, “You have no business treating me so dismissively. Please calm down and explain that I will be glad to talk about this with you when you can do it decently. You’ll find me in my room whenever you’re ready to talk to me.”

3. Be honest.

Parents frequently forget the easiest solution, just to tell their children the truth. For instance, if your child has been acting all day inappropriately and then asks, “Can we go out for ice cream tonight?” you should not give in to their request. You should just come right out and say what’s on your mind: “You know, with the way you’ve acted today, I really don’t feel like taking you out for ice cream.” (Go ahead, say it.) What did you learn? If you treat other people poorly, one of the consequences will be that they are less inclined to go out of their way to help you.

4. Always have a contingency plan ready.

Even if you follow these general guidelines, there will be times when the so-called “natural consequence” punishments for children are ineffective. For instance, it won’t do much good if your child thinks the natural consequence isn’t a big deal or if allowing them to experience a consequence could hurt someone else. These are both examples of situations where allowing them to experience a consequence could harm someone else. It’s not a good idea to look for a logical result while you’re rushing to go somewhere, like childcare, because it typically doesn’t make sense.

Madelyn Swift, an author specializing in parenting, advises that you should never look too far: “If the result isn’t glaringly evident, then it’s usually not the appropriate method.” Additional examples of tactics that may be effective when natural consequences will not include the following:

  • Problem-solving.
  • Guiding your young child to participate in an activity suitable for them.
  • Gatherings of the family (with kids ages four and up).

Keep in mind that natural consequences aren’t always the answer, but that doesn’t mean they will never be. They are one tool in the box of methods you use for your discipline. A hammer is necessary for any builder, but he will also require additional equipment to construct a house.

Meaningful articles you might like: 5 Bad Habits to Break in Children, Fun Mom’s Guide to Positive Discipline, Discipline Tips Every Parents Need To Know