Natural consequences are an effective disciplining tool with long-term benefits. They work specifically well for teenagers because they are at the age where their ability to reason is much more developed than that of a young child. Teens can see the direct outcome – positive or negative – of their choices or behavior and then reason things out and apply the results to any future situation.
Of course, a natural consequence only occurs when you’re resolved not to interfere with an experience and let your teenagers face the effects of their personal actions. Since it’s natural for people to seek a positive outcome to any given situation, it’s likely that your teens will also strive to repeat the actions or choices they made to arrive at the positive result.
However, this type of discipline is only effective when the natural consequences are immediate.
For example, imagine this scenario:
Your teen is playing a game on the computer in his room. You stick your head in and remind him that the family dinner is in an hour. He acknowledges, but an hour later, he’s not at the dinner table.
An hour after that, he comes rushing into the kitchen looking for food, saying he’s famished. You remind him that dinner had been an hour ago and direct him to the refrigerator. There is only one slice of pizza left. He’s upset about missing out on his favorite dinner. You suggest he could make himself a sandwich if the slice of pizza isn’t enough.
You’ve just let your teenager experience a natural consequence. Not only did he miss out on the pizza because he failed to be at the dinner table in time, now he also has to make himself a sandwich.
What are the benefits of disciplining with natural consequences?
Experiencing discomfort and failure are highly effective teaching tools. The feelings connected to these lessons can stick for a long time and can help your teenagers make good choices even when you are not there to guide them.
Thinking and reasoning out possible consequences of their choices prepares your teenagers for the real world. Lessons that personally affect them powerfully teach decision-making and problem-solving skills that will help them throughout their lives.
Some other examples of situations where natural consequences teach lessons are:
- Your teen chooses not to study for his driver’s license test – he fails the test.
- Your teen decides to stay up too late – he has trouble getting out of bed in the morning.
- Your teen doesn’t pack himself a lunch – he’s going hungry at school for that day.
- Your teen fails to wear a jacket when he goes outside in the winter – he’s freezing cold.
- Your teen won’t wash his dirty clothes – he won’t have anything clean to wear.
- Your teen spends all his allowance in one day – he lacks the funds to go and have fun with his friends for the rest of the weekend.
- Your teen cheats on a test at school – he will have to face disciplinary actions from the school administration.
To make sure your teenagers learn valuable lessons from natural consequences, you have to take the opportunity and discuss these situations and their outcomes with them when they occur. Only then can they benefit your teens by helping them to become responsible adults.
* Note: Keep in mind, though, that natural consequences benefit teenagers most when they are combined with other forms of discipline. Also, natural consequences should not be used in situations where there might be a potential risk the teen will get seriously hurt. Safety always comes first!