Guidelines for Logical Consequences

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After my consequences post last week, I thought it would be helpful for me to post some of my personal guidelines when applying logical consequences. Here are my top ten tips for applying logical consequences.

  1. Be Consistent: This is the most common piece of parenting advice, isn’t it!?!?! You need to be consistent with your logical consequences. This doesn’t mean that the same consequence must follow the same action, but it mean a consequence must follow a certain action. You don’t sometimes apply a consequence for not picking up the toys when asked and other times let it slide. That is not fair to your child. How is he supposed to learn that way? Consistency is the way he will learn the rules you are trying to put in place.
  2. Write Your Rules: It might help you to write down your general rules so you have thought about it. Speak respectfully. Complete tasks when asked. Stay in bed until told to get out. Write down your rules. Some rules will change as your child gets older. One example is staying in bed. As your child gets older, he will be able to handle the freedom stay in bed until a certain time and then get up on his own. You can use your Lifetime Goals as an guide in what rules might be good to set. Once you have your rules written down, you will be better prepared to recognize, “Oh! This is an action that is against our rules and I must now do something about it.”
  3. Write Your Routine: A lot of disobedience seems to correlate with your daily routine. Transitions can be hard for children. There might be fits or refusal to comply with coming inside, picking up toys, or going to nap. Writing your routine can help you think about and anticipate possible points of conflict in the day.
  4. Write Some Consequences: Next, write some consequences that might make sense for the breaking of a rule. What might be good for talking back? What might you do if your 18 month old refuses to come out of the sandbox? Think through and write down some good consequences. 
  5. Allow For Context: We are humans. This means we have the privilege of being able to apply mercy to our thinking and not jus judgment. Daily life with children is not a simple black and white algebra equation. It is kind of more like the abstract math equations that my husband encounters while working on his masters in engineering…equations I won’t pretend to have a grasp on. We must take into account the context of the situation.

    Maybe you have decided that screaming at you or whining and crying earns some time in isolation. Your little 20 month old stomps in anger and does just that after you tell her to do clean up her toys. You know she is tired (you had her up late last night) and she is a little late for lunch. In this situation, I wouldn’t go put her in isolation. I would give her a hug if she were amiable to it. I would say, “Sweetie, I know you are hungry and that you are tired, but that doesn’t mean you can talk mean to Mommy. It is not okay to talk to Mommy that way. You need to talk nice and you need to be obedient.” I would then put her at the table and get her going on lunch immediately. If lunch wasn’t quite ready, I would give her some fruit and/or veggies until lunch was ready. After lunch, I would either put her down for her nap or have her clean up her toys if she were in a better mood. If she went straight to nap, I would have her clean up her toys after nap.

    In this situation, you are making sure your child’s disobedience and screaming doesn’t get her out of doing what she has been asked, but you also recognize that there is a good chance she is behaving that way because of her hunger and sleepiness…and she is only 20 months old and absolutely hasn’t mastered the art of being nice even when hungry and tired. You apply mercy in that the fit doesn’t warrant a consequence. But you don’t reward the fit either.

  6. Give Warning: Take time in times of non-conflict to tell your child that from now on, consequences will follow breaking rules. If your child is a baby or young toddler, you can work consequences in as appropriate. It will just be a natural part of your lives. If your child is a preschooler or older (and possibly older toddler), it is good to sit him down and explain that things will be different. Don’t expect a big hug and thank you, but it is fair to give warning before changing the rules.
  7. Take Time To Think: It is okay to take time to think about a consequence. You don’t always have to apply it immediately with preschool age and up. You can say, “I am going to take some time to think about an appropriate consequence for that action.” Sometimes, the anticipation waiting for the consequence is more punishment than the punishment itself šŸ˜‰
  8. Remain Calm: Always remain calm while applying your consequences. Don’t scream and yell. Talk in the same voice you would when talking about the weather. Stay calm and matter-of-fact.
  9. Show Empathy: Tell your child you are sorry he made that choice. When he is sad that he lost his toys, empathize with him, “I know. That is sad to lose your toys. I didn’t want you to lose your toys, either.”
  10. Keep Responsibility On Child: Say things like, “Oh, I am sorry you decided to not pick up your toys when I asked. Now I have to take them away.” Make it clear that the consequence is happening because of your child’s actions, not because you are mad or mean. This is why remaining calm and showing empathy are helpful.

Please feel free to share your own tips on how you have made logical consequences work for you!


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Valerie, also known as The Babywise Mom, is the mother to four children. She has been blogging on Babywise and general parenting since 2007. She has a degree in technical writing and loves using those skills to help parents be the best parents they can be! Read her book,Ā The Babywise Mom Nap Guide, to get help on sleep from birth through the preschool years. You can also find her writing at, Today Parenting, and Her View From Home. Read more about Valerie and her family on theĀ AboutĀ page. Follow her onĀ Facebook,Ā Pinterest, andĀ InstagramĀ for more tips and helps.

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  1. Kristy Shreve Powers
    March 2, 2010 / 2:36 PM

    This is probably going to be one of my favorite posts! I know these things and try to do them already, but you've laid it out in a way that I can picture the process, remember it, and remain consistent.

  2. Sandy
    March 2, 2010 / 4:10 PM

    I love this post. I have a 7 month old. I know I need to store these ideas up for a later time, but when should I start. She has been crawling for a month and goes straight for things she should be toughing. What is the handle this at 7 months that will grow into learning discipline as she gets older?

  3. Plowmanators
    March 15, 2010 / 5:38 PM

    Kristy, I am glad to help!

  4. Plowmanators
    March 15, 2010 / 5:39 PM

    Sandy, see the post "teaching your baby No" for help on this.

  5. Catherine
    March 23, 2010 / 2:41 AM

    This is a great post. I am really struggling with this as my strong-willed 4-year old tests his limits, and I have been failing in being consistent and floundering administering consequences. Can you share some of your logical consequences? (like for talking back, getting out of bed when told not to…) Thanks for being such a great example!

  6. Plowmanators
    April 6, 2010 / 12:08 AM

    Catherine,I definitely will. I will put this in its own post. Also, I strongly suggest you see the book "parenting with love and logic" because it gives lots of great examples. There will be things you don't like, but I think it is very valuable for getting into the logical consequences mindset.

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