Welcome back to the Alternatives to Time Out Series! So far, we’ve discussed the effectiveness of Time Out as well as Natural Consequences and Redirection. Today, we’ll look at another useful tool: Logical Consequences.
Logical Consequences are similar to Natural Consequences in that they are closely related to your child’s behavior. The difference is, while Natural Consequences just happen when we step aside, Logical Consequences must be provided by the grown up in charge.
For an example, let’s revisit the block throwing toddler from our last post. Natural Consequences are out of the question because damage could be caused by flying blocks. You try offering stuffed animals to throw, but when you turn away the blocks become airborne once more. What now?
Perhaps it’s time for a Logical Consequence. In this situation, the consequence most closely related to block throwing would be to simply remove the blocks for a short time. This sends a clear message that, if the blocks are thrown, they will be taken away.
A young child may need to experience this consequence several times before getting the picture. Over time, consistent use of Logical Consequences can be very effective. Children can, however, become upset at the result of Logical Consequences. If you end up with a toddler in tears, how are Logical Consequences any different from Time Out or other forms of punishment?
The goal of logical consequences is to help children develop internal understanding, self-control, and a desire to follow the rules. ~ ResponsiveClassroom.org
Consequence vs Punishment
Punishment is based on the idea that when children misbehave they must pay a penalty to make up for their behavior. Children who are punished may avoid challenging behaviors because they are afraid of being punished again.
The idea behind Logical Consequences is that children benefit from learning why certain behaviors should be avoided. Children who experience Logical Consequences develop an internal understanding of rules which leads to self-control and willing cooperation.
In other words, the difference between consequences and punishments really comes down to the intention (and delivery) of the strategy. In fact, the action of taking blocks away from a child could turn out to be either a Logical Consequence or a Punishment, depending on how the adult follows through. It may seem subtle, but it makes all the difference in the world when it comes to your child’s long term learning.
So, how do we make sure that we are using Logical Consequences instead of Punishment? Try following the steps below. Remember, if it’s safe to do so you can try Redirection before using Logical Consequences. For this example, let’s assume that you’ve already asked your 5-year-old to stay on the sidewalk once.
5 Steps for Using Logical Consequences
- Ensure safety. “Come over here, please, I’d like to talk with you.”
- State the Positive Intention (or your best guess). “It looks like you’re really having fun riding your bike through that puddle in the middle of the street.”
- Give information. “It’s not safe to ride in the street because you could be hit by a car. I can’t let you keep going back into the street.”
- State the consequence. “Let’s go put your bike away. You can try again tomorrow.”
- Follow through. This is really key. Once you’ve stated the consequence, follow through kindly, calmly and firmly – even if your child tries to negotiate or gets upset. While this may be hard, your child needs to know that you will stick to your word.
- Support big feelings. Be there for hugs, to talk it out or simply to acknowledge that your child is really upset. Be supportive and compassionate while staying firm. Remember how we talked about “I told you so” in part 2? That applies here as well!
What if I Mess Up?
We can all get caught up in the heat of the moment (your kids can really push your buttons, right?) and dole out consequences that are harsh or unfair. It’s important to follow through, but it’s also important to be honest with yourself and your child.
If you find that anger got the best of you, have a talk with your child. Let her know that you were really frustrated and that you realize now that you’ve calmed down that it isn’t really fair to take her bike away for a whole week. Instead, it will just be for the day.
Admitting that you make mistakes is an amazingly powerful, if challenging, thing to do for your child. Imagine how you would like your child to make amends and try to do the same. There is no better way to teach our kids than by modeling the behaviors we want them to learn!
Tips for Using Logical Consequences
- Try finding a solution (through Redirection or a simple discussion) before using Logical Consequences when possible.
- Be calm and respectful. Speak to your child about consequences privately to avoid embarrassing him in front of his friends.
- Make sure that consequences are directly related to the behavior you’d like to change and appropriate for your child’s age.
- Logical Consequences should be provided as soon as possible after a challenging behavior – especially for young children.
- Avoid nagging. Offer your child one chance to alter her behavior, then follow through.
- Assure your child that he can try again another time.
- If a challenging behavior continues to be repeated, keep trying to find your child’s positive intention while using Logical Consequences to ensure safety as needed.
Next time we’ll wrap up the series with one more post on Time In and Positive Time Out.