In My Brain Today: Handing out Natural Consequences

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By Leslie Lindsay

[Cartoon: Child cleaning rug thinking, "I hate cleaning the rug, it would have been easier to take my shoes off."]

About a week ago, I posted a comment on Facebook which seemed a tad bit controversial.  It was about my views on natural/logical consequences and went something like this:  

“Yesterday, my daughter refused to clean her room.   Instead, she shoved paper and Kleenex in her nightstand drawer.  She had piles–I mean piles–of projects, toys, stuffed animals, etc on her floor, resulting in a fall hazard.  She’d heard our threats–that if she continues to treat her bedroom as a trashcan, we’d take away her trashcan. 

We took the trashcan away. 

Last night, the same daughter refused to eat dinner neatly after several reminders and spilled her dinner all over herself.  She hated the feeling of warm food on her sweater and jeans.  I shrugged and said, “Well, take it off and put it in the laundry room and then come back to the table to finish your meal.”  

We didn’t yell, we didn’t scream.  She did.

As parents, we were employing the idea of “natural consequences.”  It sounds like tough love and maybe it is.  But I will tell you, it’s highly effective. 

We are also parenting a complex child.  At nearly 8years old, Kate is a firery, independent redhead with AD/HD and also recovering from childhood apraxia of speech.  She has a tremendous amout of ingenuity, creativity, and impulsivity.  She has trouble remembering rules and adhearing to social norms (at least at home–at school, I understand she’s a perfect angel).  She’s beautiful and brilliant.  And we love her to pieces. 

So, when we pull out a natural consequence from our hat of parenting tricks, I feel as if we’re being not parents but a magician.  It works.  It’s mysterious, but an illusion it is not.  (image source: http://blog.positivediscipline.com/2012/04/natural-consequences.html)

If you are parenting more than one child, then you know you may need to vary your parenting techniques from child to child.  Sure, they may have the same genetic make-up, they may live under the same roof, and have vaguely the same experiences.  Yet they need different types of discipline.  For our oldest daughter, this is the kind of discipline that is most effective.  (The other one…well, you can just give her a brief look of disappointment and she bursts into tears). 

But back to natural /logical consequences…what is it, exactly you want you to know.  “A consequence is a result of something a person does. Letting children experience the natural or logical consequences of their actions is one way to teach responsibility. A natural consequence means what happens because of something a child does.

“A logical consequence is a result arranged by the parent but logically related to what the child did. Natural and logical consequences result from choices children make about their behavior. In effect, they choose the consequence they experience.” as quoted from the University of Minnesota’s Extension Website   (http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/familydevelopment/W00019.html

I first heard of natural/logical consquences as a Child/Adolescent Psychiatric RN at the Mayo Clinic.  We were trained in a program known as The Incredible Years by Carolyn Webster-Stratton.  If you click this link and scroll down to pages 9-11, you will find a good  algorithm to follow with you are thinking of attaching a natural consequence to a behavior. (http://www.incredibleyears.com/Resources/basic-program-handouts-misbehavior-06.pdf

I won’t sit here and say this is easy, far be it.  We all want our kids to be successful.  When they aren’t, we want to step in and fix the problem for them (sure, I’ll bring your lunch to you at school).  Would it have been easier for me to get up and wipe the spilled dinner from my daughter’s sweater, or clean her room myself?  Maybe.  Would I have rather done those things instead of hearing her wail as I scooped the trashcan up and moved it out of the room.  You bet. 

But I know that handing out a natural consequence–one that is not preferred by her–the behavior won’t happen again. 

And that is what is in my brain today, March 7th 2012. 

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