Natural Consequences | Parenting 101
I know what you’re thinking… isn’t this a photo blog? Yes. Yes it is… but did you know that I majored in Human Development in college with an emphasis in Marriage and Parenting? The degree is doing absolutely nothing for me but I LOVED the subject matter and would love to share a few of my favorite principles that have stuck with me 4 years later in my new Parenting 101 series.
What are natural consequences?
In real world terms, natural consequences are the laws of nature type stuff. Like if you jump off a building, gravity says you are going to hit the ground. That’s it. End of story. You’re not suddenly going to sprout wings and fly. Gravity wins every. single. time.
In parenting terms this means instead of shielding our children from the consequences of their choices/actions we let them experience the natural and logical consequences that follow.
Examples of Natural Consequences in Parenting
Staying up late.
A super simple example of this principle is a Saturday night at my house growing up. As teenagers we didn’t get in trouble for staying up late, that was our choice to make. But we also knew that we had 9am church and 10 people had to get ready between 3 bathrooms. Staying up late meant being more miserable when we had to get up early. My parents didn’t have to do anything except set the expectations that we were ready for church by 8:50am. We were not permitted to sleep in or skip church due to poor choices we’d made the night before to stay up late. Natural Consequence.
Despite the fact that it’s the 21st century, cell phone are still a luxury and a privilege, not a right. Especially when mom and dad are paying for them. With the privilege of a cell phone come rules. In my house it was no cell phones at the dinner table or during family time. The natural consequence when we choose to break those rules was to lose the privilege of the phone. Sometimes just for the night, sometimes longer if the rule breaking was chronic.
Going to bed hungry.
Raise your hand if you were/are a picky eater? 🙋 That was totally me growing up. My mom would slave over a home cooked meal only to have half her children turn their nose up. Would it be fair for mom to have to make a new meal for us picky eaters? No. It was our choice not to eat the food provided and the alternative was going to bed hungry.
Yes. I even do this for my 2 year old. She might eat next to nothing one day and gorge the next but I don’t make her special meals or let her snack excessively between meals. Its her natural consequence for choosing not to eat the meal provided.
Cleaning up toys.
I was trying to think of another 2-year-old example, for some reason its easier for me to come up with the teenager examples. But here’s a good one. If Emi plays with one toy she’s not allowed to get out a new toy until she puts the first toy away. She may not want to clean up and she doesn’t have to, the only argument we’re going to have is about getting out that 2nd toy. She can’t do it until she makes the choice to clean up. Once she makes that choice I will definitely help her clean up, I mean she is only 2, but it comes from her.
Why natural consequences are a good parenting tool.
Let’s go back to the gravity example. When we jump of a building and then fall we’re not going to kick and scream at gravity for punishing us so unfairly with the fall. Gravity is gravity, we knew the consequence before making the choice to jump and while we might hate them and think they suck, we knew.
Natural consequences remove mom and dad as the bad guy. You educate your kids on the rules and then let them make their own choices. When consequences follow they’re not a surprise and while they might suck kids will learn to recognize that their choices are the cause, not mom and dad.
This tool also means less arguments with your kids. It’s hard to argue with the statement “You knew the rules and chose not to follow them, I’m sorry that your choices have led you here but those are the consequences. I hope you’ll make a better choice next time.”
I also firmly believe this is the only way to prepare your children for what we call the “real world”. You know, the one you and I live in. The one where if we don’t pay our bills the electricity gets shut off. The one where missing a deadline at work gets you more than a slap on the wrist and 5 minutes in time out. The world where the choices we make each and every day have real and sometimes scary consequences. By helping your child connect the two now you prepare them for that reality in a safe and loving environment.
Drop a comment and lets brainstorm more natural consequences for the daily parenting struggle.
(Images in this post by Kayla @trulyphotographyut)