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Natural vs. Logical Consequences as a Gentle Discipline technique

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  • Natural vs. Logical Consequences as a Gentle Discipline technique

    In the article, "Discipline Without Distress," in the Winter 2008-09 issue of The Journal of API, on page 3, author Judy Arnall discusses some about the difference between natural and logical consequences when used as a gentle discipline tool. She explains how logical consequences are often seen as a form of punishment by the child.

    What do you think -- are logical consequences punishment in disguise or teaching tools?

    One of the points Judy made in this section of the interview, that I found enlightening, is asking yourself, "Would I do this to my partner?", when considering issuing a logical consequence. I thought this is a good point, but do you think that, in some situations and with certain temperaments, logical consequences are appropriate?
    Last edited by LisaL; 01-22-2009, 06:28 PM.

  • #2
    Hi Rita and Others:
    I'm over on the API reads forum but thought I would wander a bit! If anyone would like to present an example of a situation that they use a logical consequence, we could brainstorm other options.
    Warm wishes,
    Judy Arnall


    • #3
      As my oldest child is only 2 1/2 years old, I haven't used much in logical consequences with her. There was one time that she had taken her diaper off (for the millionth time, it seemed) and there was a great mess on her bed. That morning, we were supposed to go to my mom's and my daughter was very excited, but we had to postpone the trip because of the time it took to clean up the mess. My daughter also likes to watch Sesame Street, and I told her she couldn't because we had to clean up the mess. I communicated both of these consequences with her and told her that the next time she had a dirty diaper while in bed that she needs to call out my name and I'll come right away.

      Now, are these logical or natural consequences? I think postponing the trip to Grandma's is a natural, because we had to clean up the mess. But, I see banning her from the TV as a logical consequence. Instead of watching TV that morning, I had her "help" me by getting me a bucket, another roll of paper towels, etc.

      While she was certainly disappointed with not going to Grandma's or watching her TV show, she has never done that with her diaper since.
      Last edited by LisaL; 01-23-2009, 01:34 AM.


      • #4
        Hi Rita:
        I would say that helping to clean up and missing Grandma's in the meantime, were natural consequences. You involved your daughter in helping to "solve the problem" and obviously, it was a problem that needed immediate attention. The situation was taken care of and you taught your daughter how to clean up. What a great teaching moment. It's really a fine line between logical consequences and problem solving. Most parents tend to go to the consequences first and it really doesn't solve the problem. Problems can be solved in many ways and not all the ways are punitive, so that might be something to think of first.
        Warm wishes,


        • #5
          Oh my, what timing. This is the discussion I really need to have right now!

          But no time to write right now. Hopefully I can find some time this afternoon...


          • #6
            Originally posted by Judy Arnall View Post
            Hi Rita:
            It's really a fine line between logical consequences and problem solving.
            Ah, I see what you're saying (writing). This is a good way of looking at this: If you're teaching the child to problem-solve, you're probably OK? And there needs to be a connection (obvious to the child) between the problem/situation and the consequence.

            So, if I had told my daughter that we would miss going to Grandma's but hadn't involved her in the clean up, would this have been a logical consequence then?

            What about older children and teens? Let's say we have a teenage boy who habitually misses curfew. He seems to be very peer-oriented and trying to problem-solve doesn't work. He agrees, say, to stick to a new curfew but then later scoffs at it and does what he wants anyway, without regard for his agreement with his parents. (I'm using my brother, when he was home, as an example here.) The parents resort to taking his keys away. What could be done differently here?


            • #7
              Hope it's not too late to continue this thread. I meant to reply earlier but I got waylaid by some vomiting. (Me and the kids)

              I've been trying to use natural type consequences instead of logical consequences since my youngest was about one. It's something I struggle with at times and at other times flows quite naturally. Lately it's something I've been questioning and feeling like I don't quite understand. Judy's article in the new issue of API Journal was a good reminder. I think I often have a hard time evolving the concept of natural consequences as my child evolves and reaches new developmental levels. Also, while I believe that we overemphasize the results (good behaviour) of parenting and neglect the process of parenting, I still feel the need to have a minimum level of good behaviour! Sometimes I'm at a loss as to how to get that desired behaviour without using logical consequences.

              Here's a recent scenario in my house where I think I used logical consequences over natural consequences (or did I?)

              My son has a regular play-date with another AP parented child. Both his parents and I are pretty well on the same page discipline wise and both boys are generally kind and respectful 4 1/2 year olds. They were playing in the upstairs bedroom and took virtually every toy off the shelf and strewed them around the room. There were toys everywhere, on the beds, floor, every inch of the room. Tiny pieces of Lego were everywhere not safe for my 1 yr old. I let them know that that they would have to clean up the mess and that I would help them. I felt I needed to help them because it was too overwhelming of a task for kids their age and it can be a little tricky to fit all the toys back into the closet. They were given a time warning that they would have to clean soon and when it was time they insisted they wanted to clean by themselves. I let them do this but when I went to check on their progress they had not done a thing. By this time the other mom was thereand we both started to clean while telling them they needed to clean as well. The boys just continued playing, laughing and giggling. Saying "were not going to clean-up" and generally being rude and disrespectful. When it became apparent that they weren't going to jump in and help us at all I told them that I was not going to host a play-date next week because it was not fair to me to have to clean up all their toys. At this point they jumped up and started to clean (though we were basically done at this point). I told them that we could try again the week after but that I was not willing to host for boys that won't clean up after themselves. Usually the play date is 45 minutes outside at the playground and 45 inside at my house. I told them that we could stay outside longer next week so that the play-date wouldn't be shortened too much but that I was not going to host one at my house. The boys were very upset by this and I was not nearly as calm, kind and composed as I should have been.

              The following week they asked several times if we would be going to our house and I told them we would not and we talked about what had happened. We tried to problem solve together about what to do the next time we had a play-date at our house. The boys came up with the idea that I "remind" them to clean if they "forgot" again. (Boy, wish I'd thought of that ) The week after that it was time to go back to our house and the boys only took out a few toys and put them away when it was time to go. And since then they have been generally good at cleaning up their toys.

              So, was this a logical or natural consequence? And I know (and have used) many other strategies that might have worked in this situation. Letting my son clean up later etc. BUT what about the fact that hosting the play-date is voluntary on my part and I'm not willing to host if the boys won't clean. Can my personal limit be a natural consequences? (oooh please say yes )

              I'm really hoping this makes some sense. Sorry it is so long.


              • #8
                hi jessica,
                i don't have a lot of time this morning, but will quickly say that what you did would have to be a logical consequence b/c a natural consequence is something that occurs if you DID NOTHING. the natural consequence of them tearing the room a part is a messy room. you cleaning the room is a logical consequence you imposed on yourself. refusing the next playdate is a logical consequence you imposed on them. it was also a boundary that you set for yourself. i'm not passing a judgment on any of it, just describing it in the context of NC/LC.


                • #9
                  Thanks for answering Paxmamma. I realize that I'm dangling by a thread trying to argue this being a case of natural consequence. And oops, thread just broke. I know that deep down I meant it as punishment and that he definitely interpreted that way. (And perhaps his interpretation is the most important factor in deciding if something is punishment)

                  But, I'm still struggling with how much I have to accommodate my son in order to be practising natural consequences. As I said in the previous post, I've been practising natural consequences for years. I've encountered this situation hundreds of times in the past and have used many different, non-punishing approaches to keep my house relatively clean and my family emotionally healthy. But, it seems that it is always my needs that get pushed to the back. As my son gets older I am ready to push my needs a little further up to the front. What about my need not to walk around tripping over toys?

                  Judy gives the example of natural consequences and homework in her book. She suggests that a natural consequences of a child not doing their homework would be to have them go to school without having it done and having to deal with the consequences. It seems possible that the consequences experienced at school would be some form of punishment. So here is a case where natural consequences actually involves punishment. Is it acceptable because the parent is not imposing the punishment? Is it acceptable because the parent does not have a lot of control over what the teacher would do in this situation?

                  What if the same situation with the toys had occurred at someone else's house? What if a mom hosting a play-date said, very calmly, and respectfully that she was not willing to host again because she did not like her house being left in a mess. Is this punishment? By the previous homework example I would think not. Maybe it is never punishment if someone else is meeting it out to your child? It meets the criteria of "doing nothing" on the part of the parent. So, if it's not punishment why is it okay for the other mom to stand up for her needs but not me? Because I am the parent? I know this example seems kind of extreme, most moms would understand the difficulty in getting hyped-up kids to clean. But what if she genuinely decided that she disliked this aspect of hosting play-dates so much she wasn't willing to do it again? Would she be "wrong" to feel this way? Would she be "wrong" to act on her feelings in this way? I would not have a problem explaining this to my son. I want him to encounter situations where his needs clash with others and he sees others standing up for their own needs.

                  What if that evening I had cleaned up the dangerous toys and left everything else there but decided quietly to myself later that evening that I was not going to host this regular play-date for my son and his friend. Would this be punishment? Would it all depend on how my son interpreted it? If I wanted to practise natural consequences but my son interpreted the cancellation of his regular play-date as punishment would have to host the play-date in perpetuity?

                  Thanks for listening,


                  • #10
                    Hi Rita
                    I think if you look at the situation as "you and me against the problem" instead of "you and me", then you and your child are on the same team and work together to solve the problem. You are not out to teach a lesson, but to teach your child how to fix things, or how to make things work better for next time. I agree that it's often a fine line between solving the problem and a logical consequence. If your child comes up with a non-punitive way to solve the problem that works for you, why not try it? Remember that children get their concrete operational thinking around age seven. This is the ability to think logically. So logical consequences are often wasted on younger children because they can't think of options without parent's help, or their conclusions are often fantasy and not logical. One hundred years ago, children were deemed adults at age seven because of this higher level of thinking and reasoning. (thank goodness we know more now!) So with the Grandma example, if you and your daughter had cleaned up in time together to go to Grandmas, she would have learned how to get there on time. But, if you had cleaned up in time and still decided not to go to teach a lesson, it's crossing over the line to punishment. In the teen curfew issue, true problem solving aims to meet the parent and child needs equally and fully. If the teen continued to miss curfew, then his needs were overriding his desire to keep his agreement. That often happens when a child "agrees" to a solution that they really don't agree with but have succumed for various reasons. If the child is not keeping the agreement (and most kids want to if they have a good relationship with their parents) then it's time to head back to the problem solving process to come up with different solutions. There are always many solutions to solve problems. The hardest part is figuring out what everyone's true needs are before brainstorming solutions. I think the parents taking the keys away are a good example of logical consequences- it is related, and reasonable, but it doesn't solve the problem of the curfew or the son's need to be with peers. Does that make sense?
                    Warm wishes,


                    • #11
                      Sorry, I meant to say "you and me against the problem" instead of "you against me"!


                      • #12
                        Hi Jessica:
                        I will try to answer both your posts in one. You certainly have rights to state how you feel when the boys don't listen to you. Saying (in an I-statement) "I feel unappreciated when I help you clean up your toys and you and your friend refuse to do it because I get tired doing all the cleaning. I feel unhappy about hosting other play dates. What are some ideas that we could do to get the toys cleaned up?" Have them come up with several ideas. Here are some for you: Remember that you have the most power before the toys come out for preschoolers, the computer goes on for school agers, or before you drive the teens somewhere. Get a signed agreement if possible! At least be sure you get eye contact and acknowledgement. I even get that agreement now while arranging playdates on the phone. Cancelling future playdates are a bit extreme but are also one idea (of many) to solve a problem and your child should be aware of that. For children that age, I've found that limiting the toys to a playplace out of the way of the one year old means that you do not have to expect compliance immediately. Perhaps your son would be most amenable to cleaning up when his friend isn't there. When he asks you for a favour later, you could say, "Yes, after the toys are cleaned up." I also found that the easier the clean up, the more the kids want to help. Even putting everything in one bucket (which you can sort later) shows that they are great at cleaning up at their developmental level. You are correct in that wall to wall mess can be pretty overwhelming to many people, including children! I also found that asking groups of children to clean up and then promising a snack gets much better results! It's the when/then rule. When the toys are cleaned up, then we can have our snack. I've also made it clear to my children that if they don't get their friends to clean up, then they are responsible for their friends mess on their own, after the friends leave. That sometimes helps them to prompt their friends into cleaning up. All this being said, I've noticed with my kids and all their friends, that clean up happens much more easily when they are around ten and up. Younger then that, and it's a constant struggle. I want to offer something about other people punishing your child but have to run and pick up kids. I'll post this afternoon!
                        Warm wishes,


                        • #13
                          Hi Judy,

                          Yes, this does make sense. It's a good reminder of the importance of keeping the relationship between parent and child strong all through the years, and that if things seem to be going amiss, to first look at the relationship and to see what needs are not being met.

                          And whenever I am about to dole out consequences, I need to ask myself, "Am I trying to 'teach her a lesson,' or am I trying to actually teach her how to solve problems?" In thinking back to the article in The Journal of API, I like how the author Julie Artz reminded us that we are trying to teach instead of punish and to influence instead of control. I have to continually look at myself and ask myself, "Why do I 'need' my children to do as I say?" Most of the time, the answer is because I want that control. And I remember immediately that the goal is to influence and teach and guide. I think that's the biggest thing for me: To remember that my job is to raise a happy, emotionally healthy adult and that I can't focus on trying to control my child.

                          I also liked the part in the article where you discussed parenting as being on a continuum, that parents often try time-outs first to stop from spanking and eventually they move down the line to logical consequences and then to true non-punitive discipline techniques. This is so very true! I remember when I decided that I didn't want to spank my kids. It was impossible for me to skip trying time-outs, even tho they didn't work, because I needed that experience to back up what I was reading in order to move down the line toward non-punitive discipline. This is a very good point.

                          I'm very happy that you've joined this thread to sort out the Natural Consequences vs. Logical Consequences. It is very helpful, not only for the parents joining in but for those who are reading only. Thank You!
                          Last edited by LisaL; 01-29-2009, 04:39 PM.


                          • #14
                            Hi Rita:
                            Thank you for bringing it up!
                            Best wishes,