Do logical/natural consequences hit home

timer lady

Queen of Hearts
I had an interesting conversation with wm's therapist recently. She commented that the mental health community has encouraged the logical/natural consequence mindset for our difficult children.

She struggles & sees parents struggle simply because mental & emotional illnesses are not logical by nature. difficult children have little ability to reason (i.e. connect the dots).

A consequence for not doing school work would be losing recess or free time....failing grades, etc. A natural consequence for not brushing teeth would be cavities & dental work needed.

And saying all that, therapist feels that, while a consequence is necessary, because of our difficult children inability to connect the dots, parents shouldn't struggle to find a logical consequence. None of this is logical or reasonable.

A consequence for wm acting out in school is generally to miss gym (fun time). This is a disservice to the boy as he needs to blow off steam - therapist recommended add'l homework or lunch room duties.

kt's therapist (wm's therapist's partner) is seeing the "logic" in this reasoning.

I argued that while difficult children generally are unreasonable or illogical there needs to be some way for them to learn to connect the dots. Both therapist's commented that the tweedles may never have that ability - work on the positives they exhibit. Build on their strengths.

Are we fighting nature? Hmmmmmm?


Active Member
I know my difficult child doesn't respond to natural consequences. I keep thinking if I keep doing it, something will click. I can talk to him about natural consequences and he understands and can verbalize it himself, but it doesn't prevent him from doing the same sorts of things over and over again.

He doesn't really have any friends, and he can tell me why. He's says he's mean to them and argues all the time, so they don't want him around. But, when he's around kids his age he just can't seem to stop himself. If they tease him (like all the kids his age tease each other - nothing really major), he overreacts and starts saying mean things to them. He knows he should just ignore them and move on, or joke and move on, but he can't make himself do it.

I could go on and on with examples. If he doesn't keep his room clean, we take everything out of his room, including his TV, video games, and radio. He gets it intellectually, but can't connect it to actually change his behavior.


Well-Known Member
No, Linda, depending upon the severity of the illness, in most cases I think it is imperative we have "natural" consequences. We must teach them to think logically and I believe it can be done. It will just take much, much longer.
Just call me Pollyanna. :smile: :crazy:

Hound dog

Nana's are Beautiful

I try a combination of both. Your tdocs recommendations I call creative parenting. And I've found that using creative solutions as well as natural concequences gets pretty good results.


(the future) MRS. GERE
We ended up using natural consequences as much as possible...and sometimes "with a twist."

For example, most natural consequences make sense- lousy schoolwork=lousy grades (I had a FIT if they took away Rob's recesses and insisted that they NOT- he needed that time to burn off steam and they all paid for it even worse if his recesses were removed).

The "twist" came when he got older. If Rob wanted to go to a dance, for example, we would tie in his home behavior with his ability to go to the dance. It was so *interesting* how he could be nice and respectful the week leading up to a dance when it was next to impossible any other time. Still, it was worth it to us to have that peaceful week even if it was baloney :wink: as far as a longterm solution.

You do what you must when the chips are down. :smile:


timer lady

Queen of Hearts
kt & wm need skills to live in the community. Part of those skills is learning that A + B = C. While their very perceptions are so skewed there must at least be an awareness of the rules & laws our society lives by.

husband & I discussed this; consequences will continue - creative & logical. Natural consequences are just that - natural.

Suz, I'm with you - taking away time to burn off steam is contraindicated for our busy children. Makes matters worse.

While kt couldn't go to the park to play yesterday because of school refusal I did allow her to play out in the yard & to ride her scooter around the block.

I think that therapist's point was how hard we struggle to come up with "logical" for illogical thought processes.

I keep willing to try whatever might work. When all is said & done, raising a difficult child in my humble opinion, is an experiment in terror. :rofl:


Well-Known Member
I agree there has to be a way for them to learn so they understand there are laws they must follow. I wonder if the prisons are filled with difficult children that never could grasp this concept. As many natural consequences that came their way - they still never learned. I just wonder.


Active Member
prisons are full of people who do not learn from their mistakes. like a revolving door, they know the consequences but at the time they want to have or do something, it fades to the background.

hence ant sits in a bar at night in plain sight of everyone even though he knows this is a probation violation and will send him back to jail.


Well-Known Member
Toughie - I think it is the combo of natural and inventive consequences based on your particular difficult child's needs/ability to connect the dots.

My difficult child gets his classwork sent home if it is not completed during the school day. Most kids would loose recess. difficult child does not loose recess. But, spending an extra 20-30 minutes on his homework is definately a consequence!!!!!!!!

When difficult child was younger, I used to explain the consequence thing in terms he would understand. If he was upset and resistant to a natural consequence, I would tell him it was like riding a bike. If he pedals faster, the bike goes faster - if he turns the handlebars, the bike will turn. Who is in control? You are. Life is like riding a bike - you are in control of where it goes and what happens.

Parents of difficult children must have a generous creativity streak!!!!



Well-Known Member
I think that therapist's point was how hard we struggle to come up with "logical" for illogical thought processes.

That's a possibility. Maybe something was lost in the translation.

Wiped Out

Well-Known Member
Staff member
It is a dilema-sometimes I think my difficult child learns from natural consequences but other times it doesn't phase him and still he needs a consequence even when there doesn't appear to be a natural one.


New Member
my difficult child never thinks about consequences. EVER. No matter if it's grounding, police trouble, school suspension, spankings, taking things away, anything at all......very frustrating.


Active Member
Timer, I can see where the therapist is coming from but I do think that natural consequences are best, as far as possible. Otherwise how are they ever going to learn that the dots even have a chance of connecting?

I might explain the consequences, by drawing in the line to connect the dots, but since I didn't put the dots there I am not responsible for the natural consequences. For example - failure to complete school work at school because of "goofing off" means that work has not been done. This work HAS to be done for the lesson to be learnt. So if difficult child 3 wants to take some time off schoolwork to go to the shops - well, he can't, because he's already fallen behind. if he wants to go to the shops tomorrow, he could try putting in some extra work today to catch up on outstanding work. (He just came to me as I was typing this - he has finished his allotted work within the space allowed and is now moving on to do extra study for the next half hour, to make sure he can come shopping tomorrow).

We talk it through like that and explain it. It is then his choice - put in the extra effort, or miss going to the shops tomorrow. I DON'T say, "Until that work is done, you're not going near the shops," because at some stage I will need to take him shopping for footwear, or a haircut, or I will not have a choice about bringing him because otherwise he would be home alone for too long. I try to be careful to not paint myself in a corner.

I ask the kids to help me peel vegetables. If they are slow peeling vegetables, then dinner is delayed. If they complain about being hungry then I say, "The vegetables take a certain amount of time to cook. I put them on to cook as soon as I could. I had to wait for the vegetables, so we all have to wait the same extra bit of time for dinner. It's not my doing - I can't speed things up any more than I already have. It's got to be a team effort." (I avoid using words like 'fault' or 'blame', because then they can't throw them back at me. If THEY choose to blame themselves, it's their choice.)

Linda, you said, "I know my difficult child doesn't respond to natural consequences. I keep thinking if I keep doing it, something will click. I can talk to him about natural consequences and he understands and can verbalize it himself, but it doesn't prevent him from doing the same sorts of things over and over again."

What is not working for you here, is several possibilities:

1) He is too impulsive and although he is highly motivated to do the right thing, he forgets in the spur of the moment. Not much point in punishing afterwards because he will already be punishing himself.

2) He still hasn't learnt what is right and what is not. This is unlikely. But if it is true, before punishment comes teaching, in a way that he can actually recognise and remember. His brain may simply not be mature enough - it's like explaining to a three-week-old baby about toilet training.

3) He may have some control, but not recognise the link between the natural consequences and the action. Here is where you have to spell it out, and KEEP spelling it out.

Generally our kids know right from wrong and are highly motivated to do the right thing. But impulsivity and frustration get in the way and all common-sense and training goes out the window, to be followed by a hotheaded response, and eventually remorse. Punishment won't prevent a recurrence. You need to help them learn methods to lower their frustration and to reduce their impulsivity - not easy, when a lot of it is simply an immature brain. But you help them, you keep trying to support prevention and staying calm and in control, and eventually they will be able to give you what you want.

Natural consequences do work, because they're not something YOU'RE imposing as a punishment, which for some kids appears to be a parent exerting control for control's sake. No, this is just what happens in LIFE. You fail to pay the phone bill and the phone gets cut off. You fail to pay the power bill and you eat salad for dinner in the dark. After enough cold meals in a dark cold house you would hope you would remember to go pay the power bill, but for a child it takes longer.