Time as a Natural and Logical Consequence

When we think of teaching children with natural and logical consequences, using time as a consequence is one that can fall into both categories.  Let me tell you a story to illustrate.

My Name is Mud.

Early in the spring my older boys were playing in the back yard with some cousins while I went into the kitchen to make some cookies they had requested.  After straightening some things (I don’t know why I always have to straighten the kitchen before making another mess in it) I glanced out the window to check on the kiddos and couldn’t see them.  I spent the next few minutes tracking them down, and found them trudging through the mud in our freshly tilled, and thoroughly rained on, garden patch. 

Now, I would not consider mud-trudging an offense in itself, but they had already been told several times that the garden area was off-limits for a variety of reasons.

The next several minutes were spent hosing off 80 fingers and toes and changing a few clothes.  Along with a lecture about listening and obeying, I pointed out that the time I was going to spend making their cookies had now been used to clean them up.  This was a natural consequence, a matter of fact.  The time was gone.

my name is mud by diegodiazphotography.

As a way to help them make restitution (as well a way for me to be able to satisfy my own cookie craving) I offered a logical consequence.  I told the children that the time for making cookies was used up washing their feet, but that they could help me get some time back by cleaning up the playroom while I made their cookies.  Eight feet quickly rumbled up the stairs and got quickly to work as I measured, mixed, and of course sampled, the much-anticipated cookie dough.

Filling Up the Toolbox.

There is not always one right approach for correcting behavior.  It is usually a very delicate formula that must take into account the child’s temperament and disposition as well as many situational elements specific to each instance.  That is why it is useful to have so many tools at your disposal.  Consider time as a consequence as another corrective tool you might use to guide child behavior.

You may find that using time as a natural consequence is most fitting.  Because a child’s choice and the accompanying restitution take time, time for other planned events may be lost.  Cleaning up the thrown food will take time and may mean that the show he was planning on watching will be over.  As a natural consequence, time and opportunities pass without any intervention on your part.

Other times, you may want to use time as a logical consequence.  In these instances, you are basically exchanging your time, lost as a result of their poor choices, for their work or help.  Because you had to help them mop up the water left over from the water fight in the bathroom, you are now late to start dinner.  Have your children help you get that time back by helping you in the kitchen- washing dishes, setting the table, or helping prepare the food.  Having these youngsters help out may not actually speed things up sometimes, but the concepts of responsibility and restitution are taught. 

This logical consequence has the added bonus of giving you the opportunity to work together, which can create a positive aspect, a high-note to end on.  Always remember to compliment the children on the work they did and thank them for helping you get some of that lost time back.  Ending correction with a positive experience reinforces the fact that you are on the same team, and that you are correcting out of love, not punishing out of anger.  (This doesn’t mean that you don’t ever feel anger- we are human here – it just means your decisions are based on love.)

Using time as a consequence teaches children not only about choice and behavior, but about the conscious use of time – something that many adults struggle with.   Learning to responsibly make choices about time will be a valuable lifelong skill the children you love and teach will be grateful to have.

Top photo by elkojote.

Mud photo by Diego Diaz Photography.

For more on Positive Guidance, start here.

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Filed under Article, social skills

2 responses to “Time as a Natural and Logical Consequence

  1. Beautifully said! I especially appreciate your focus on loving, intentional discipline, rather than emotionally driven reactions to bad behavior.

  2. Ah! I used to use time as a consequence all the time when I was teaching (in the you-wasted-three-minutes-of-my-time-so-now-you-will-be-here-for-three-minutes-after-the-bell sort of way) but I have rarely thought of practical ways to use it with my own kids. Thanks for the suggestion.

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