This post may contain affiliate links. Read more on my disclaimers that is listed at the bottom of this page.
I have written about how to use natural consequences with toddlers but natural consequences look a bit different if we are dealing with tweens and teenagers.
The idea of using natural consequences with our children is to give them a head start in learning how to behave and make good choices long before they are out on their own. Our home should be the safest place for our teenagers to fail. In fact, we want them to fail often during these years. It is how they will learn and our love will be a safe place to fall when these inevitable failures occur. And they do occur, as long as we are not busy rescuing them.
We have to let them experience how things will work when they have gone off to college or entered the work force. If we don’t, they will not be prepared and will have a very rough start.
Here are some tips with scenarios designed to help give you an idea of how to use natural consequences.
Do Not Rescue
Your son forgot his gym clothes he brought home to have washed over the weekend. He calls you to bring them during your lunch break so he’ll have them in time for his afternoon PE class.
Resist the urge to rescue! Your son will have to go to gym class without his PE clothes. He may be able to find a solution on his own. Maybe a friend has an extra set of clothes he could borrow for the class today. Problem solving is an amazing skill to have!
Or maybe he’ll have to sit out and lose points for the day. Could this effect his grade? Yes, but let’s break this down. It’s one day (if he learns this lesson quickly). I am a high school teacher and I can tell you this: students who take responsibility for their school work, gym clothes, their portion of a project, etc. always come out ahead in the end. I promise. It will be ok and if your student learns this lesson in 9th or 10th grade rather than as a freshman in college or in his first job when the stakes are much higher, you have done your child a huge favor.
Hold Them Accountable
Your daughter wants to leave for a birthday party she is attending and you notice she did not clean up her room before leaving. This was a prerequisite for being able to go. You must ask your daughter to clean her room before leaving. No matter the timetable of the birthday party. Perhaps it is an event that starts and ends at a particular time. Maybe she is going to miss out on something. Truthfully, all the better, for the sake of the lesson.
When our children do not do what is asked of them, especially when there are agreed upon terms such as completing a task before being able to move on to something else, they must be held to what we expect of them. We often want rescue them in these cases because we can see it causes them pain. I am a sucker for tears and I hate it when my children are in pain of any kind. I have the urge to rescue them also. Then I think of them as the amazing adults I want them to grow into and I know I must stand my ground. If they can learn responsibility in my home, they will fail less when I am not there to help them. Their pain now is much safer than what it could be in just a few more short years.
Let’s tweak the above example just slightly. Your daughter had been asked to do a few chores around the house that are time sensitive, meaning they needed to get done that day. You return home after errands and after your daughter has left, to find that nothing you requested done has been accomplished. Because these things needed to get done that day, you have to go ahead and do them. We are assuming that calling your daughter and having her come back doesn’t work because of timing or because you can’t get ahold of her. At any rate, you end up doing the tasks. The natural consequence here is that someone had to do your daughter’s work for her. You are not free labor. She must pay you back. She could pay you with allowance she earns or with her time (doing other work around the house).
Raising our children is such a great gift. It is not easy in any way. It takes diligence and creativity. Natural consequences take both diligence and creativity to come up with and enforce but they provide such a great way for our children to learn responsibility. And as you use natural consequences, you’ll naturally see the connection between what happened and the resulting natural consequence even when it is not blatant.
I’m so thankful we have the opportunity to teach our children in this way so that by the time they are out on their own, they have had a lot of practice in taking responsibility for their choices and actions. They will be thankful (even if they aren’t right now) and so will their first boss, their spouse or their college professor.
Other articles you may enjoy: