Parenting with Natural and Logical Consequences By Marta Adelsman, Psy.D.

Parenting with Natural and Logical Consequences

By Marta Adelsman, Psy.D.

If you want to raise well-behaved children with a healthy sense of self-esteem, punishment does not work.  I used to teach a parenting program called “Systematic Training for Effective Parenting” (STEP) by Dinkmeyer & McKay.  I like it because it offers alternatives to punitive methods of child rearing.

My husband and I started applying the STEP program when our sons were quite young.  One of the alternatives to punishment, Natural and Logical Consequences (abbreviated here as NLC), pretty quickly yielded some positive behavioral results.

One of the lesser challenges in our household revolved around table manners.  Paul, our youngest, liked to eat with his fingers while his unused fork remained next to his plate.  Using NLC, my husband and I said in a friendly non-judgmental voice, “If you want to eat with your fingers, you’ll need to take your plate and eat in the kitchen.  If you choose to use your fork, you can stay in here and eat with us.  It’s up to you.”

You can see from this example how, instead of arbitrary punishment unrelated to the behavior, the NLC approach related to it directly.  NLC didn’t tap into the ego’s need for  “power over,” but rather flowed with the rules of the social order in our family and in American society.  Delivered in a calm voice that communicated good will, it gave Paul a choice.
Rather than implying “you’re bad,” NLC lets go of moral judgments.   It treats the child like a worthwhile human being, keeping the offensive behavior separate from his personhood.  Allowing the child choices about his course of action nurtures mutual respect and instills in him a sense of responsibility, self-reliance and self-esteem.

Natural and Logical Consequences have an advantage over reward and punishment in that they eliminate power struggles.  Rather than forcing your child to comply with your wishes, NLC enables her to learn from the reality of the natural or social order.  Because it makes sense, it decreases resentment toward you that often accompanies discipline.  It lets her know you trust her to make responsible choices (assuming you have let go of your opinion about what choice she makes!).  Even if she doesn’t like it, she will know deep down that it’s fair.
With the use of NLC, power struggles decrease in all kinds of situations:  waking up and getting out the door in the morning, not wanting to wear a jacket in cold weather, missing the bus, or getting poor grades.  If you choose to use it, be patient.  It may take time for NLC to yield positive results because children may at first test the limits.
To complete my story about Paul and his table manners, at first he opted to go into the kitchen to eat.  After a brief time there, he chose to rejoin the family in the dining room.  From that point, eating with his fingers ceased to be an issue.  And the disappearance of fights at the dinner table served everyone’s good mood!

Dr. Marta practices as a Life Coach In Communication and Spiritual Consciousness in the Verde Valley of Arizona.  She writes a newspaper column and is author of the book, Why Wallow When You Can Soar?   For appointments (couples, parents and individuals in-person or by phone), email or call 928-451-9482.

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