please help: i don't understand natural consequences properly

Rebecca - posted on 07/26/2010 ( 10 moms have responded )




i know this is supposed to be a really good parenting technique but i don't seem to understand it properly. i have a really hard time thinking what natural consequences are/ should be for certain things (there's many example, but i'll stick to two below). and there are certain times i find it hard to implement as well (last paragraph of the post).

is the idea that if there are no natural consequences to disobedience that you shouldn't be imposing a behaviour in the 1st place? e.g. i don't want my kids jumping on the beds and sofas because it is bad for the furniture, but i can't think of a natural consequence to them that is negative to them, so i battle to stop the behaviour (and yes i have endlessly told them that we need to look after our things so that they last, but the trampolining temptation overcomes them). so what am i missing; i don't get it?

another one is that my youngest has a mop of curly hair that gets really tangled. she wants in long and her father (who i'm not in a relationship with any longer) also does not want me to cut it (it's so beautiful i don't really want to either). however, most mornings is a battle to get her to let me brush her hair. the natural consequence is ... well sticking, knotty messy hair, but she doesn't care about that ... however her preschool DOES and they insist hair must be neat and tied up. i cannot think how to resolve the hair issue, and have resorted to a 'bribe' (which is something i never wanted to do). the 'bribe' is that she is really into acquiring numeracy at the moment and loves counting to work out basic sums, so i tell her she can sit with her numeracy book and we can do 'maths' while i brush her hair. at the moment this secures co-operation ... is this bad?? it makes my life easier in the short term but i worry about the long term consequences.... er... the natural consequences...

secondly, when i can think of a natural consequence it works really well with my 7 year old, but not with my 3 (going on 4) year old. if i state natural consequences to the 3 year old (e.g. if you don't get dressed for school you will have to go to school in your pyjamas) she gets absolutely hysterical and impossible about EVERYTHING. whereas if she doesn't want to get ready and i wait a few minutes without saying anything, she usually comes round of her own accord.

please help, i live in a 3rd world country and books are hard to come by and i don't understand this technique too well!


Meghan - posted on 07/26/2010




It is really hard to teach toddlers natural consquences.
With the jumping off the couch thing-Our natural consequence is you are going to hurt yourself. I have tried taking the cushions off but likes to jump off those too. So I give im his warnings, explain that he is going to hurt himself-and 8/10 times he does hurt himself. May not be the BEST way to do it. Like Nicole was saying "bribing" isn't ALWAY a bad thing. Sometimes I tell him that he can jump on mommies ecercise trampoiline (which let's face it someone shoudlget some use out of it HAHA) rather than the couch. Or redirect. "Mom doesn't want you jumping off the couch, let's go kick a ball outside"
But overall I see natural consequences as...ok, let's say he is throwing toys...natural consequence, mom takes the toys away...he keeps pushing buttons on the tv-ok, no tv for the rest of the day. He likes to push the chairs up to the computer desk and climb on-the chairs get taken away. I am kinda rambling here wrap this up, it is all about consistancy and following through imo!
Hope I helped a bit!

[deleted account]

You are definitely on the right track and have the right idea, but you may be taking the idea a little to the extremes. The idea is to let the children experience the natural consequence as often as possible. Obviously, sometime that is impossible--for example, the natural consequence for running into the street w/o looking is to be hit by a car, but we cannot let that happen, so we must think of another consequence that teaches the same lesson.

For your problem with the children jumping on the furniture, the natural consequence is meaningless b/c they do not have to pay for new furniture and they cannot see the damage they are doing to the springs and frame until the furniture finally gives way--which is what you are trying to avoid. So you have to find a substitute consequence. The natural consequence would mean that they would have no furniture to jump on (or sit or sleep on either). I would take the cushions off of the furniture that they bounce on and leave them off for a couple of days. If they jump on their bed, take the mattress off--this will teach them what it is like not to have the furniture and they will know how valuable it is to take care of it. (If they jump on your bed, close your door and do not allow them inside that room any longer).

In the case of your daughter and her hair, I would not consider that a bribe. You have just taken an uncomfortable situation for your daughter and made it enjoyable to her by distracting her with math. Think of it like Novocaine at the dentist, OR consider why she didn't like it before--she was likely bored sitting there and had nothing to focus on besides the occasional pulling of the brush, which can hurt a little, but now she is no longer bored and the pulling is more bearable since she is not thinking about it so much.

Last but not least, about the age differences. The 7 year old has likely experienced some natural consequences in her lifetime and knows a little more what to expect. She can probably even tell you what the consequences for certain behaviors are without you having to tell her b/c she has learned about cause and effect--an idea still foreign to your 3 yr old. Simply telling the 3 tr old about the consequence will not effect her behavior, she must actually experience the consequence.

You mentioned, with the getting dressed example, that she often gets hysterical when you announce the consequence, but if left to herself, she eventually calms down and gets dressed. That is the best thing you can do (other than actually letting her go to school in her pj's, which may or may not be possible). She is considering the consequence, and deciding that she wants to avoid it, thus getting dressed. The tantrum is not desirable, but she is just working out ways to let you know she doesn't want to get dressed. If you ignore it, she will learn that it doesn't matter whether she wants to get dressed or not, she just has to, and she will also find better ways to express that she doesn't want to do something.

Hope this helps; feel free to keep asking questions! When I first stopped spanking, I chose natural consequences to discipline my son and I was told it was one of the hardest things to do b/c you have to get creative when coming up with consequences! Especially when the actual consequence is just not possible.

[deleted account]

You have defined natural consequences just fine. What you have to remember is that it is one of many parenting theories. Children like to take theory and throw it out the window. So what works for one child may not work at all with another as you know with your own two.
There is nothing wrong with the 'bribe' so to speak that you have outlined. In my opinion that is a distraction. You are keeping her distracted long enough to accomplish the task without both of you ending up stressed. Also I can not ever see a problem with 'bribing' a child with something she can learn from.
With regards to the jumping on the sofa and beds. Natural consequence. They have to sit on the floor if they don't stop and they have to sleep on the floor if they don't stop are my suggestions.

I hope this helps.


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Kate - posted on 07/30/2010




Seems like we are all on the same page here. I agree with the others that your strategy is great. You need to incorporate positive reinforcement as well as natrual consequences to make it all work properly. She is getting praised for sitting quietly and doing the right thing because she is actually doing something she enjoys. If she causes a fuss then she wouldn't be able to access the numeracy work.

I think you really need to remind yourself that the age difference really changes how she will react to things as well.

I was also wondering whether you could create a reward/star chart where the behaaviour of focus is "good listening". The kids can get a star/tick when they follow your instruction or do what they are told. Then for your older child you could have a 'shopping' list of rewards which cost different "star" amounts, and for your little one you could find somethign they really want and once they get say 3 - 5 stars (to start) they can get the reward. Sometimes with little kids the star and accompanying praise is enough to reward them anyway!

good luck. I think you are on the right track more than you even realise.

Riana - posted on 07/30/2010




Love this post Rebecca, but will have to come back with sugestions as I don't have time now.

I always jokingly say parenting is all about bribery and corruption but what caught my attention most is that it mostly a grammer error - you are NOT bribing her you are finding a compromise that favors both parties! It's called excellent parenting skills not bribery :-)

Meghan - posted on 07/29/2010




omg Cathy...that is the one thing I am SOO worried about! I have heard of landing wrong on your heel...poor boy!

Jaime - posted on 07/29/2010




My kid is the king of natural consequences right now and he doesn't get it...but I hope one day it sinks in that 'hey, maybe couch diving isn't such a good idea buddy...your teeth are not supposed to be embedded in your tongue!'...but hey, what do parents know?

Rebecca - posted on 07/29/2010




thanks! that helps a lot. and especially a relief that my particular 'bribe' is ok. and i will definitely put the other suggestions into operation in some form.

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