Natural Consequences: Difficult, but Necessary

Natural consequences are the inevitable results experienced by children, adolescents, and adults when they do not follow through responsibly in a given situation or task. These situations can range from being late to school, or getting caught with illegal substances, which can result in detention or an arrest. When children face natural consequence, parents will often attempt to minimize the difficulty or discomfort. This is a natural reaction from a parent, however limits the child’s ability to internalize the experience.

As a parent, it is important to remember the positive effect that experiencing natural consequences can have on a child, however painful it might be to witness. If a child is running late to school, a parent may feel compelled to provide a reason or an excuse for their child, when in fact the child had control over their tardiness from the start. Whether they were taking too long to get ready, did not set their alarm, or they did not finish their homework and took time that morning to complete it, it is important for the child to understand the importance of a natural consequence, and experiencing the result of their action.

Without allowing a child to experience the consequence for their choice, the child will not learn that each action, whether it be positive or negative, is followed by a consequence, which will reinforce the negative behavior. It is imperative to allow the child to experience negative consequence for their action so it does become reinforced, and the child will learn not continue the behavior.

ABC stands for antecedent, behavior, and the consequence. Antecedent stands for the event that happens immediately before a Behavior, while Consequence refers directly to the event immediately following the Behavior. In these situations, there is no "C" because the parents take away the consequence.

A father in Utah used the perfect combination of love and support while teaching his children the lesson of receiving a natural consequence for being late to school. This father took the time to write notes to his children’s school that comically stated false-reasons as to why they were late. He took a playful approach and allowed the school to understand that he was aware his child was late, while also allowing his child to receive the natural embarrassment that comes with a father’s help. By showing your child that they are loved, supported and protected, while also allowing them to experience the consequence for their action, it will allow the child to understand the natural consequences behind certain behaviors.



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164 West 80th Street
New York, NY 10024

(212) 580-0080