Natural and Logical Consequences

The Goal of using consequences is to help our children learn self-discipline by allowing them to make choices and to be responsible for the results of those choices.

How consequences are different from punishment:

  • Consequences are clearly related to the misbehavior and are applied in a respectful manner.
  • Consequences express a logical social order that de-emphasizes power and hierarchy.
  • Consequences do not express moral judgment.
  • Whenever possible, they are discussed and agreed upon before misbehavior occurs.
  • Consequences are presented by a firm and kind parent.
  • Consequences allow the child to “run into” life instead of “running into” parents’ power.

How to arrange for consequences:

    • Allow natural consequences to occur if possible.
    • Then consider logical consequences that are related to the misbehavior.
      • Ask, “How can I arrange for my child to experience the social consequences of his behavior without forcing, fighting, coercing, or punishing?”
      • If possible, establish an agreement prior to the misbehavior. Ask yourself, “How can we reach an agreement that emphasizes cooperation?”
      • Make sure the consequences are age appropriate.
      • Only agree to consequences you are are willing and able to uphold.
      • Immediate consequences are most effective.
      • Consequence should be relatively short in duration.
    • After the misbehavior, follow through and allow the consequence to happen. When following through with a consequence, take this approach:
      • Be firm and kind.
      • Talk less. Act more.
      • Be a broken record and refuse to fight.
    • Tell children they can try again later.
      • The time the child must wait before trying again should often be relatively short.
      • If misbehavior continues, you may have to change the consequence, rework the agreement, or put the problem in the child’s lap.
Chronic Misbehaviors: Make sure you are not fighting or showing anger. Discuss a chronic misbehavior at a calm moment, well before the next possible encounter. Always include your child in problem solving and establishing agreements and consequences. Take time for training. Be prepared to sacrifice the day’s or week’s agenda as an investment toward future cooperation (miss part of church, forgo grocery shopping, etc.)

© 2007 Based on work of Rudolf Dreikurs

Examples of Specific Consequences:

Misbehavior and Possible Consequence

Child is demanding attention:  Adult ignores

Child – interrupts adult on the phone
Adult – only responds to child after phone call
Child – making annoying noise

Adult – pretends to not hear or separates self from child


Child is acting otherwise inappropriately:  Adult’s Response

Child – throwing tantrum at grocery store
Adult – adult & child leave store
Child – siblings playing too loudly in house
Adult – children try quiet play inside or go outside
Child – repeatedly leaves dinner table & coming back
Adult – takes plate & assumes he’s do
Child – refuses to eat what is served for dinner
Adult – child eats or goes w/out food until snack or next meal
Child – disruptive at dinner table

Adult – returns to dinner after she calms self in her room or is excused from dinner altogether


Child is using something inappropriately:  Adult’s Response

Child – riding bike to friend’s house w/out helmet
Adult – walk to friend’s house or get ride
Child – playing rough with pet
Adult – let Fido get mad or remove Fido
Child – loses own toy
Adult – child plays with other toys
Child – breaks someone else’s toy

Adult – child saves allowance to replace toy


Child dawdles or is disruptively slow:  Adult’s Response

Child – keeps getting up late in morning
Adult – misses breakfast to make time for dressing
Child – won’t get dressed in morning
Adult – takes child and clothes in car
Child – keeps missing school bus
Adult – child walks or arrives at school with unexcused tardy
Child – doesn’t come home for dinner when called
Adult – child misses dinner
Child – doesn’t pick up toys
Adult – child retrieves toy from lost and found
Child – forgets lunch for school

Adult – child misses lunch


Child breaks an agreement:  Adult’s Response

Child – makes mess eating snacks in TV room
Adult – child cleans up before TV room used
Child – doesn’t do chore when promised
Adult – can’t cook until dishes are done
Adult – child can’t play in a cluttered living room
Notes regarding child’s developmental stage: It is important to allow for logical consequences that are related to the misbehavior and are appropriate given the child’s age. The following examples are targeted for use with elementary school children. Toddlers are generally too young to remember a scheduled agreement, and pre-schoolers may need reminding. Young children do need a home environment that is “childproofed” with sensible safety precautions.