• Brittany Podsobinski

Do kids need consequences?

One of the biggest concerns parents having when making the switch to positive parenting is, “Don’t kids need consequences in order to learn?”

And the answer is YES, experiencing consequences can help kids learn. But consequences aren't the same as punishments. Punishments are additional and often unrelated actions that are supposed to make the child suffer (and therefore not want to perform the undesired act again).

Stop and imagine for a second if you made a mistake, or even said something intentionally hurtful to your significant other in a moment of anger, and they took away your phone to punish you for being unkind. What would you be thinking? How would you be feeling? Did you learn the intended lesson? Are you feeling like you want to be kind to your partner in the future?

Now, let's look at consequences. The natural consequence of saying something unkind to someone is we experience their hurt feelings. We see that we caused harm to them. They may want some space from us while they process this hurt, and we will need to spend time and effort making a repair to the relationship. This could be apologizing or doing something nice for them to make it up to them.

Now if we really want to discipline our children (discipline meaning, "to teach") we can allow them to experience the natural consequences of their actions and learn from them. What happens when you don't wear a coat outside when it's cold? How about when you leave your toys outside and it rains? Or don't prepare for a test? If you’ve spent time teaching and setting them up for success, then take some time to step back and let your child experience the natural consequences of their actions.

And here's the hard part (at least for me) when they do experience the natural consequence, don't ruin it by stepping in with a lecture or "I told you so". Instead provide empathy, help them process what happened and ask questions about how they are going to move forward.

Now sometimes the natural consequence of an action would be unsafe for the child to experience - the fall is too far and they could end up with a broken bone, throwing the toy could lead to someone getting hurt. Or the natural consequence might go against your family values - eating healthy, getting adequate sleep, time spent connecting instead of on screens, being unkind to others.

In this case logical consequences can help. Logical consequences are directly related to the behavior. For example, if you've shown your child how to play with the car truck and they keep throwing it, a logical consequence is to put the toy away and play with something else for a bit. Or if the the child keeps taking candy off the counter when they're not supposed to, the candy gets moved to a place where they can't reach it.

It's easy for logical consequences to turn into a a punishment, so a general rule of thumb is, if it’s hard to come up with a logical consequence, it’s probably not a logical consequence. Also ask yourself, “What will this consequence help them learn? And how would I feel if this was done to me?”

If you are still unsure, or have questions about specific situations send me an email at or sign up for a 30 or 60 minute problem solving session.

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