Parenting: Natural Consequences

All children are wired differently. Some children thrive with direction and instruction while others see this as a chance to rebel. Some children are cautious and need a helping hand with everything, and others dive in head first without looking back. Children come in all shapes and sizes, and they function on all different wave lengths. This is the beauty of individualism and growth.

There are many types of parenting styles out there. Many parents practice parenting styles that they were accustomed to growing up, and others want to deviate from how they were disciplined and raise their children in a different manner. Every child responds differently to each parenting style so it’s important to find one that works for your child that you are comfortable with.

The “natural consequence” parenting style has worked for me in multiple situations. My threenager daughter wants to believe she can do everything, and I let her try. I give her guidance if she will let me, but if she insists I stay back I will. Unless the situation is dangerous to her and others, I will let her understand the natural consequences.

Natural consequences are what happens if we allow the natural next step to take place without intervention. For example, if you ask your child to stop throwing their snack on the floor because the dog will eat it. If they are developmentally able to understand the consequence yet choose to ignore you or purposely defy you, let them see what will happen next. If it’s an especially tasty snack the dog will be very thankful!

The goal of “natural consequence” parenting is to allow the child to experience why what they’re doing isn’t the correct way or why it’s dangerous or foolish. Natural consequences can be dangerous, such as pulling the dog from the example above’s tail. I know that if I pulled my dog’s tail, he would react with a growl, a yelp or a bite. I mean, it hurts! If someone hurts you, you will react and retract the injured limb, yell or smack at them. It’s a natural but preventable danger. The goal isn’t to let your child become seriously hurt, it’s just to let them see what happens when in a safe and controlled environment.

When to Allow Natural Consequences

  • Warning a child about trying a spicy/sour/bitter food and letting them decide for themself if they want to try.
  • Allowing them to try and get dressed themselves and push through the frustration if they are unable to.
  • Asking your child to pick up the toys so they don’t get broken or lost, and then experiencing a broken or lost toy.

When NOT to Use Natural Consequences

  • Any situation where it could cause serious injury or death to the child or another person or animal. Playing near bodies of water, helping in the kitchen, walking near a busy road or approaching strange animals are solid examples of when to err on the side of caution.

Remember the goal is not to shame our children or place them in harms way, it’s simply to let them experience cause and effect in a natural way. If you have to question whether or not you should let your child experience something, it’s probably not the best idea.

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