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Natural Consequences: The Easy Way Out - The Snap Mom

Natural Consequences: The Easy Way Out

Natural Consequences: The Easy (and Effective) Way Out

by Chanelle Henderson

To Read Chanelle’s article “Natural Family Planning: Not Your Grandma’s Rhythm Method ” Click {HERE}


Hey Snap Moms! Before I get into this topic, I wanted to start off with a fable:

The Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger. Suddenly they saw a traveler coming down the road, and the Sun said: “I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveler to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger. You begin.” So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveler. But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveler wrap his cloak round him, till at last the Wind had to give up in despair. Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveler, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on.

So many times, we think that the louder we yell and the stronger we come down on our kids, the more likely they will morph into reputable members of society. Instead, when we allow a natural consequence to occur, our kids learn the lesson without the fight. 

But how, you ask?


Thou Shalt Not Work Harder Than Thy Offspring

What’s great about natural consequences? No more yelling! No more counting to “1, 2…2 and a half…2 and three quarters..!” The natural consequence shows the child exactly what happens when she does not respond to her environment appropriately. 

When thinking about parenting, it is important to keep our goals in sight. For example, if our primary goal is to create an enduring bond with our child do we really want to “drum things into her head?” If we want to raise our child to be able to think for herself, do we really want to “get her to do ___?” The problem with the parent imposing the consequence (or rather, punishment) is that we unknowingly create an “us versus them” relationship rather than a positive alliance and mentorship.

Take eating. You can dance around. You can play choo-choo. You can decorate your child’s plate in the shape of the Mona Lisa that would rival DaVinci. But as any parent of a picky eater knows, you cannot make a child eat if they do not want to. So what do you do?

Try this stress-free approach on for size:

“Instead of bargaining or threats, try using natural consequences to deal with picky eaters. Natural consequences are neither punishment nor rewards, but just the normal results of the child’s choice. When it comes to eating, it means letting the child live through the results of skipping part of the meal. [Trust me]: it won’t harm a child to be a little hungry from time to time. When your child turns up her nose at the apple slices on her plate, don’t force her to eat them. Instead, let it go. Explain that after the meal the kitchen will close until the next meal. When she comes to you an hour later, asking for a snack, point out that she left food on her plate. Resist the urge to give her a snack.”

Thou Shalt Not Be a Helicopter Parent

Never heard of this term? Read this

 (Yikes! Halloween came early.)

It is good for children to feel discomfort. Somewhere along the way, we equated “protect your kids from any discomfort” with effective parenting.  Regardless of a child’s upbringing, he or she is going to encounter frustration, anger and disappointment. By allowing the child to experience this feeling early on, you are giving him the gift of opportunity—the opportunity to develop the skills he needs to cope with the real world. 

For example:

“When you shield your child from discomfort, what he learns is that he should never have to feel anything unpleasant in life. He develops a false sense of entitlement. He learns that he doesn’t really have to be prepared in school, because his parents will complain to the teacher, who will stop calling on him or expecting his homework to be in on time. He learns that his parents will raise the tolerance for deviance. If his parents are successful, the teacher will tolerate less compliance from him because of his parents’ intervention. He learns to confront a problem with power rather than dealing with it through responsibility and acceptance.” 

Thou Shall Let the Environment Impose the Consequence

This is a good place to revisit the definition of what a NATURAL consequence is: anything that happens, naturally, with no adult interference.” Your child refuses to wear a coat in 20 degree winter? She gets cold. Your child stays up until midnight on a school night? He is exhausted the next day. Your child forgets his lunch every day? He’s hungry until dinner. You get the idea.

Here are a few examples:

  • Child argues about wearing gloves in winter to play outside; provided frostbite is not an issue “the gloves will be here if you change your mind.”
  • Child argues there is no homework tonight; the next day they will have to face the teacher and peers.
  • Child spends allowance foolishly; there is no money for the newly released video game.
  • Child cheats in playing with friends; friends will start to stay away. 
  • Child is bossy with friends; friends will start to stay away.
  • Child wants to put too much stuff in the backpack; they have to carry it.
  • Child refuses raincoat or umbrella when raining; they will get wet.


 Thou Shall Bite Thy Tongue

 Sorry mama. Even if you REALLY REALLY want to, you don’t get to say “I told ya so.” Silence is such a strong message for letting the consequence hit home.

Two things about this. First, by pointing out the consequence, the child feels more blame, shame, or pain than the consequence warrants. Children naturally feel guilty when they make a mistake, and digging into them with the “told ya so” dance just makes them feel worse. Second, by intervening you turn your child’s attention away from experiencing the natural consequence and create feelings of resentment toward you instead. The message turns from “man, I should have remembered my coat. I’m cold” to “man, I’m sick of you telling me what I already know. This nagging is driving me crazy!”

If you really want to say something, try empathy instead. “I’ll bet it is hard to be out in this cold without a coat! Don’t worry, as soon as we get home, I’ll make you a nice warm cup of tea.” Or in the midst of the struggle; “I know how smart and capable you are.  I have faith you can handle this.”


Thou Shall Use Precise Language

Only offer choices or natural experiences that you can uphold. For example, your child does not want to go to bed. Say “Little Fruit of my Loins, it is time to leave the house.”

 Do NOT say “Little Apple of my eye, I think it’s time to leave the house. Ok?” You don’t mean that. You mean that it’s time to leave. In order for a child to honor a boundary, they have to know where it is. 

Or, you can say this. “Sweet Child of Mine, it is time to go. Would you like to walk to the car or be carried to the car?” Their choice is to walk or be carried. Their choice is NOT whether or not you are leaving.


Thou Shalt Not Let Thy Spawn Get Boiled in Lava

Ok. So natural consequence take a lot of the work out of parenting. They really help teach kids responsibility. However, there are times when a natural consequence is too much. For example:

1. When a child is in danger. Adults cannot allow a child the experience of ironing their face, or diving into a pit of alligators, or skiing behind the minivan.

2. When natural consequences interfere with the rights of others. Adults cannot allow a child to experiment with throwing boulders at cars off a bridge. Or butchering the cat. Or waking up their mother from a nap after pulling the graveyard shift. (Nobody wants to experience THAT.)

3. When the natural consequence is adverse for the child, but not the child does not think it is a problem. Adults should intervene if a child only eats pork rinds for weeks on end. Or decides that hygiene is for squares. Or informs you that they joined a new club in the neighborhood, called the Bloods, and that red is the only acceptable color to wear from now on.


Thou Shall Hold Thyself As A Model 

Natural consequences are great and all, but the truth is, our kids WATCH us like HAWKS. If we want to teach your child something, it is so important that we show them a good example.

To raise respectful kids, show respect for others. Parents who regularly put down other people are teaching their children that other people are not important. If you want your child to respect others, then respect your child. Encourage all family members to treat each other with respect.

To raise kids who own up to mistakes, own up to yours. Parents aren’t perfect. We lose our tempers, say things we are sorry for and are not always as kind as we would like to be. We are human. It is important to admit our mistakes, say we’re sorry, and show that we try to make things right.

To raise kids who mean what they say, mean what you say. If you tell your child that he must not hit people and then hit him as punishment for his misbehavior, your child will become confused by the mixed signals. If you tell your child to value balance and rest, but you never stop, your child will hear your actions over your words.


Thou Shall Ask For Help When Thou (or is it Thy?) Needs it

Reach out, Mamas! Recruit a friend to partner with for help! Write on the SnapMom comments section for input! Read a couple of books! Get a babysitter! The important thing is to recognize your own strengths, challenges, and triggers, and get the help you need before you burn out.

Speaking of which, here are a few examples to get you started:




Love and Logic









1001 Natural Logical Consequences







To read our “Co-Sleeping: The Nitty-Gritty” article click {HERE}

For our “Gentle Discipline: Use Your Words, Not Your Hands” article click {HERE}











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