Whenever children are being mischievous or doing something that they shouldn’t be doing. We often want to reprimand them so that they know that whatever it was that they were doing wasn’t safe. Luckily, for us, natural consequences take the guesswork out of it. When children experience natural consequences, it allows them an opportunity to encounter firsthand the results of their actions.
A natural consequence is something that happens in response to a child’s behavior without parental involvement.
Here are some examples of natural consequences in action.
Example: A caregiver tells Johnny to bring his book inside once he is finished playing for the evening. Johnny refuses. The next day Johnny is saddened to find his book wet and ruined from the morning dew.
In the scenario above, the caregiver could have chosen to get upset and reprimand Johnny for his disobedience. But instead, without her direct involvement, the book got wet and in turn, Johnny learned that it may be a good idea to bring in his book when he is finished playing for the evening.
Example: While walking on a beam that is about 3 inches from the ground, Zuri is carrying a baby doll and a sippy cup in her arms. Zuri’s caregiver goes over and says that it’ll be safer if she walks without the objects in her arm. Zuri continues to walk with both objects, eventually losing her balance and slipping from the beam. She is unharmed but not happy about the fall.
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In the above scenario, the caregiver could have abruptly ended her play on the beam or reprimanded her for not listening. Instead, Zuri was able to learn that when on the beam, she can reduce her risk of falling by keeping her hands empty.
Example: Carlos is eager to pour his cup of milk all by himself. His caregiver tells him to stop at a certain line so that it is not too full. Carlos states that he wants more milk and continues to pour pass the designated line. When carrying his milk from the counter to the table it spills.
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In this scenario, the caregiver could have stopped Carlos from pouring his milk once he noticed that it went above the line and begin to reprimand him for not following instructions. But, without parental involvement, Carlos’ milk spilled because it was too full which helps him realize that maybe he should have put less milk in the cup. As a result of the spill, he is now tasked with the chore of cleaning up the mess.
When to step in?
Safety should always be your first concern. We don’t want children to engage in life-threatening situations just so they can experience a “natural consequence.” Always step in when the child is in the risk of severe harm or engaging in life threatening activities.
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