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Help, Elisabeth!  I still really don't know what effective logical consequences are!"

Joyful Musings--a weekly blog

Joyful Parenting Coaching is focused on clarity, consistency, connection, being an effective parent, finding balance as a parent, and above all being a confident and joyous parent. Topics include communication, having difficult conversations, having constructive conversations, chores, routines, family meetings,  I teach parent education and parenting classes because parenting is a skill—not something we are born knowing. Get the parenting skills you need today!

Help, Elisabeth! I still really don't know what effective logical consequences are!"

Elisabeth Stitt

People often ask me, what consequence should I give my child for situation X.  

There is no one right answer for that because each family is different, but here are some guidelines:

Logical consequences should

•be related to the problem

•be age appropriate

•allow a child his/her dignity

And most importantly, you HAVE to be able to follow through with them or you are back at square one, so it has to work for your family and for that particular child (fair is not equal). 

When a Logical Consequence is Required

Start by remembering that a logical consequences is close to what an adult would have to do in the same situation.  

Let’s look at some examples:

*Sara has gotten herself a glass of milk.  Unfortunately, she left out the bottle and it has gone sour. 

*Natural consequence: Drink sour milk or do without

*Logical consequence:  Borrow some, buy more, use powdered milk or maybe watered down yogurt. 

 A child may be too young to borrow or buy, and maybe there is no powdered milk or yogurt in the house.  In that case, a parent can take the action, but the child should either a) be right there with you and/or b) find a way to make it up to you by say, doing something else you need done while you run to the store for more milk.  

•Susan is playing ball in the house and breaks a window.

*Natural consequence:  Wind and cold air come through the window; the house is vulnerable to thieves.  Unlike with the sour milk, the consequence here is too high not to do anything.

*Logical consequence: Someone pays to have the window replaced.

Depending on the age of the child, it might not be reasonable to have him pay for the window, but even a preschool can help with extra chores to earn money towards the cost.  The younger the child, the more immediately you want her to be able to meet the requirement and have the incident done with.  A preschooler for example might help you rake leaves or sweep for 15 minutes and be done.  A more mature preschooler might manage a half an hour.  You know your kid.  You want to pick something that feels big enough to the child that she doesn’t feel that she “got away” with something; on the other hand, the goal is not to make her miserable.  With a teenager, who really should know better, it is okay for it to take three or four weeks to make up the cost of the window.  

*It’s a new school year.  Last year Maya had a problem forgetting her school work.  This year you inform her you are not going to rescue her.    

Natural consequence:  The child runs into problems at school; the child doesn’t learn to organize her things and follow through on deadlines.

*Logical consequences:

--Suffer the teacher imposed consequence (detention, lost points, etc.)

--Set a daily alarm that reminds her to check that homework is in her bag.

--Have her do extra homework which she can role play turning in to you later. 

—Parent checks backpack before Maya leaves school.  she runs back and turns work in.  Maya makes up the time parents had to wait with extra chores at home. 


*CONSEQUENCES are for teaching not punishing.

*NATURAL CONSEQUENCES are what going to happen if nobody steps in and takes action.  Wherever possible, let the natural consequence do its work.  

*LOGICAL CONSEQUENCES are the kinds of things an adult would need to do when a mistake was made. ( a read light, get a ticket), so keep it as close to that as makes sense for the age and stage of the child.  

FROM LAST WEEK:  Use the lowest level consequence to teach the lesson; if the behavior repeats it self, step it up a notch (step not leap).  

What are some of the most effective consequences you have given?  I'd love to hear.  Post on the Joyful Parenting Facebook page.  Or if you have a situation and are looking for an effective consequence, post that.  

Good consequences take time to have at your finger tips, but they will get easier.  Just keep putting your energy into praising kids when you see them doing what you want them to do, so consequences are your last resort.