Parents often say, I understand what natural consequences are (by definition), but it’s unclear how to use them as a parenting strategy.
Let’s start here: The Definition of Natural Consequences:
Natural Consequences are the natural responses to a child’s choice with NO parental involvement.
What Natural Consequences Look Like:
Natural consequences can be feedback of any kind (positive or negative) from the environment, peers, learning materials, physical activities, etc. These can be anything from physical discomforts to challenging situations to problematic scenarios to surprise outcomes that naturally steer a child toward making more informed choices and identifying personal preferences.
What is the Purpose in Allowing for Natural Consequences?
The ultimate purpose is to encourage children to make choices/decisions (responsible or not) without forcing, guiding, steering, correcting, influencing or coaxing a child into submission. When a child makes a poor decision (and the parents stay out of it), the child has the OPPORTUNITY to learn from the consequence, gain new information and is in a position to choose differently the next time. Likewise, when they make choices that work for them, they are in a position to learn and to make the same choice again.
Children practice and become efficient at assessing situations, making choices, learning through the consequence, reevaluating, planning for the next time and ultimately, making choices that move them closer to their goals in life.
One of the biggest barriers is a parent who is unwilling to allow their children to experience the natural consequences of their choices because:
1. She is worried what other people will think
2. He does not want his children to “feel bad,” or “be disappointed”
3. She believes it is HER job to make sure that her children are properly clothed, fed, prepared (school, sports, sleepovers, tests, homework, etc) and organized so they never forget anything.
If you are one of the parents caught behind such a barrier, I challenge you to evaluate this faulty belief system and recognize the effects this thinking can have on your child’s self esteem. Natural consequences build resiliency, confidence, decision-making skills and prepare children to handle what life throws their way.
A motto to keep in mind: Believe in your children before they believe in themselves.
- Long-term learning that leaves the child with a sense of fairness and empathy
- Less fighting and power struggling
- Meaningful discovery of how the world works and your child’s role in that world
- A growing sense of confidence and self-assured-ness in your child with each challenge / achievement