Archives for January 2010

5 reasons logical consequences work

Here’s a quick rundown of why logical consequences are such an important discipline tool.

1)    It’s easy to stay consistent.

Once you have tried a few logical consequences and know they work, it’s easy to file those experiences away in your mental parenting toolbox and refer to them consistently. And as we all know, consistency is what matters most in improving your child’s behavior. If you choose a method that you’re not 100% sure of, you’re likely to question yourself in the midst of conflict. And once your child sees the glimmer of doubt in your eye, he will see that your authority is not impenetrable. This can lead to whining, manipulating and negotiating where your child ends up with all the control.

2)    You don’t lose your cool.

When you react swiftly with logical consequences, it’s easy to do them with no emotion—which is what makes them so effective. You don’t want your child to think he has gotten under your skin or that he’s able to push you to the point of insanity. Staying calm is what allows you to maintain your authority, no matter how egregious his behavior may be.

3)    You learn what really makes your child tick.

By testing out a few logical consequences, you’ll find one or two that seem to really affect your child. Sure, it’s best to get creative with your consequences and make them fit the crime, but when you find one or two that really seem to change your child’s behavior—which is one of our primary goals in parenting—then you can keep them in your back pocket and use them when no other consequence makes sense. But be wary of using them too often. See reason #4.

4)    You keep your child on his toes.

If you use the same consequence over and over again, your child will know what’s coming when he disobeys. This will allow him to weigh the odds and see if his misbehavior is really worth the consequence. He may determine that sneaking a cookie when he’s not allowed is worth spending ten minutes in his room. When you mix up your logical consequences, it keeps your child on his toes so he obeys for the sake of obedience and doing what’s right, not because he has weighed the pros and cons.

5)    You teach a lesson and make it memorable.

I mentioned this in my last post, but it’s worth mentioning again. The whole point of administering logical consequences is to teach a lesson and to make that lesson memorable. If you have sent your child to his room for the tenth time in the day, it’s likely he’s not going to remember whatever lesson you are teaching at that moment. But take him back to the store to apologize to the store manager for putting a pack of gum in his pocket—that he will remember.

Get creative with logical consequences

In my last post, I discussed natural consequences. The counterpart to natural consequences is logical consequences. What’s the difference? Natural consequences happen as a course of nature or as a direct result of the child’s actions. Logical consequences, on the other hand, are those that you, as a parent, impose on your child to teach a lesson.

“The consequence a parent employs to redirect a child’s thinking and behavior should be logically associated with the offense…. Since the purpose of correction is to help the child become self-governing according to moral principle, parents must choose a consequence that will best serve that purpose,” Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 160.

Here are some examples:

  • Your toddler chooses not to clean up when you told him to, so you take those toys away.
  • Your child refuses to turn off the TV, so you take away TV privileges for the week.
  • Your child has a nasty attitude around family members, so you send him away. If he can’t be nice to others, he must be alone.
  • Your toddler refuses to walk next to you in the grocery store, so you put him in the shopping cart.
  • Your child demands a snack, so you walk away and refuse the snack.

Impose a time limit
When removing privileges as a logical consequence, it’s best to impose a time limit. Tell your child that you will take his Legos away for three or thirty days, depending on the severity of the offense. Tell your child how long it will be before he will get his TV privileges back. State this as a fact when you take the privilege away, not as a threat before you do so.

By all means, don’t allow your child to think he has any influence over when the consequence ends. Don’t allow him to negotiate with you and don’t give the privilege back upon his pleading. If he cannot stop asking for his privilege back, make the time limit even longer. Tell him you will decide when he will have it back.

Earning privileges back
When you reinstate privileges, make sure your child has earned the privilege back. If he continues to refuse to turn off the TV when you say so, he clearly doesn’t have the responsibility to watch TV. If your toddler continues to walk (or run) away from you in the store, he doesn’t have the responsibility to not be in the cart when you shop.

Make consequences memorable
Taking toys away or sending your child to his room are predictable consequences that he might soon forget. Get creative with your logical consequences to improve your child’s chances of remembering the lesson. Maybe your child has a particular attachment to the radio in his room. It’s likely your child has a favorite toy. Perhaps your child lives for going to the park. Figure out what your child is most attached to and use it to your advantage when administering logical consequences.

Remember the intent
Don’t forget the fundamental idea of administering logical consequences. They are not to punish your child for the sake of punishment. Logical consequences are a form of discipline that parents use to teach their child a lesson. So when you remove and reinstate privileges, be sure to explain to your child why he misbehaved and what you expect of him next time.

Logical consequences are arguably the most effective tool in teaching our children appropriate behaviors. Use them well!

Let natural consequences do the teaching

When considering discipline methods for your child, natural consequences can be one of life’s best teachers. There is often confusion about the difference between natural and logical consequences. What makes a consequence natural? Basically, a natural consequence is any act of nature that inflicts pain (physical or otherwise) and that requires no involvement from you, the parent.

Here are some examples:

  • Your child pulls the cat’s tail and gets scratched.
  • Your child runs across a freshly mopped floor and falls down.
  • Your child is unkind to a friend and loses that friendship.
  • Your child is a daredevil on his bike and falls off.
  • Your child jumps in a puddle and has to walk in wet shoes.

Of course, you will do all you can to warn your child of the effects of his actions. But if he chooses to misbehave anyway, you allow the natural consequence to be his discipline.

Now, if you have told him not to pull the cat’s tail and he does so anyway, you allow the scratch to be his teacher. There is no need for additional discipline from you for disobeying your command. You will, however point out the pain of the scratch to show your child the importance of obeying you.

You will also console your child, but in your consolation you must not remove all blame from the child. Do not fault the cat for scratching the child. Don’t say something like, “Bad kitty.” What you will want to say is, “You hurt the kitty and she needed to defend herself, so she scratched you. Next time you will know what happens when you pull her tail. Here’s how we pet the kitty gently.”

Natural consequences work just as well with older children. If your child’s close friend uncovers a lie your child told, then it’s likely the friend will harbor resentment. Don’t blame the friend for her actions. Console your child when he’s upset about losing a friend, but don’t absolve him of all blame. Use the opportunity to explain why the friend feels the way she does, and discuss with him the effects of lying to the people we care about.

As you can see, natural consequences often do a better job teaching lessons than any correction we parents may give. Be on the lookout for natural consequences and allow life to be your child’s teacher. In my next post, I’ll discuss logical consequences.