Consequences provide feedback for behavior, and when we provide logical consequences for our children, they will connect their choices to outcomes. Logical consequences fit a particular situation. A parent chooses a response that connects to a child’s choice, which then guides the child in the right direction. In this way, children learn they are responsible for their behaviors and choices, and they learn that the choices they make have positive or negative consequences.
For the feedback to be effective, a child needs to be able to see how a consequence connects to his or her choice. That means that any given logical consequence will need to be reasonable, respectful to all involved, and clear. If a child doesn’t understand the options and is unable to decide on a choice, logical consequences will not be “logical” to the child. In addition, parents need to provide a consequence that will cause themselves no added stress because they must be willing to follow through with the consequence if this technique is to be effective.
Let’s say a new children’s movie is out, and your daughter really wants to see it. You and your spouse and daughter all agree to go to the movie on Saturday. As the time approaches to drive to the theater, your girl is outside playing and needs to come inside and change clothes. You let her know it’s time to get dressed for the movie. (Important to know for this example is that the child is developmentally capable of understanding time.) She continues playing outside. You then let her know that everyone needs to be dressed and ready to go in five minutes or there will be too little time to get to the movie before it starts. When your child comes in ten minutes later, you calmly state that more than the five minutes has passed. There will be no movie today. The consequence based on your child’s choice provides the teachable moment.
When you use logical consequences as part of your parenting strategy, you help children learn to be self-responsible as they get feedback from the choices they make.
More to consider: What can I do . . .
Logical consequences offer parents an opportunity to teach children what they can do and shifts focus away from what they “shouldn’t” do.