Last week we kicked off our series on Consequences That Actually Work with a post on the importance of natural impacts. Today we look at what to do when natural impacts are not enough to help kids make things right.
When children are not motivated by natural consequences, they may need more concrete consequences to help them learn. A logical consequence is simply an enforced consequence that is related as closely as possible to the misbehavior. This could include losing a related privilege, or requiring the child to fix what they broke.
Losing the privilege is a common Biblical pattern for consequences. When Adam and Eve misused the fruit in the garden they lost the privilege of being there. Moses’ disobedience and poor leadership caused him to lose the privilege of leading the people into the Promised Land. David’s sin of adultery cost him the honor of building God’s holy temple. When Jonah defied God, he was “assisted” in doing what he had been asked to do.
Dr. Jane Nelsen, author of Positive Discipline, suggests remembering the following “3 Rs” to ensure that consequences are both logical and helpful:
RELATED — When the consequence is related to the misbehavior, it helps to cement the relationship between the initial misbehavior and the consequence in the child’s mind. It is far more helpful than taking away some unrelated privilege (like their favorite toy or dessert). Consider the case of a child who tracks mud into the house after being told to leave his dirty shoes outside. A related consequence here would be to have the child clean the carpet where he walked. If he is too young to do this alone, I can either use the opportunity to teach him or at least help him do the cleaning. This not only lets children know they are responsible for their actions, but it also provides a positive interaction for learning further skills and responsibilities.
REASONABLE — A logical consequence must be reasonable — that is, appropriate to the age of the child and the severity of the behavior. Scrubbing the floor where he tracked is a reasonable consequence. It is not reasonable to have the child clean all the spots on the carpet or to forbid him to play outside for three days.
RESPECTFUL — In order to be most helpful, the consequence must be spoken and enforced respectfully. Adding humiliation to a consequence makes it hurtful instead of helpful. Simply and kindly explain, “Tracking mud in the house is not OK because it damages the carpet and makes extra work to clean it up.” A simple explanation of the consequence diffuses negative emotions and enlists cooperation. Also, do this as soon after the infraction as possible. Waiting to implement consequences may extend the problem beyond the memory of the child, which greatly decreases the effectiveness of the consequence.
When helping children understand the natural consequences of their actions is not enough motivation, bring in some reinforcements! Remember the “3 Rs” and use a logical consequence to help your child take responsibility for their actions.
Practice: Take a minute and think of the rules in your home, or maybe some recent bouts of rule-breaking. What logical (related, reasonable, respectful) consequences do you think would best address each situation? Share your ideas in the comments!
Be sure to check out the third and final part of this series on consequences to learn more!
Take 15 minutes to learn how to give consequences that teach, rather than simply punish, by downloading our free ebook Consequences That Actually Work.