When Tough is Kind

By Lauren Quinn, Co-Founder & Head of School

Recently, I heard one of our new learners say to a peer, “You’re going to get in trouble!”

To which one of our returning learners said, “There’s no such thing as getting in trouble here. You make choices and there are consequences.”

I admit- the phrase “get in trouble” sounded strange as it hit my ears. It’s not in our vernacular at The Village School but it did serve as a throwback to my own childhood in which, “getting in trouble” meant we were unlucky enough to get caught doing something we weren’t supposed to be doing and were therefore handed some sort of illogical punishment by an clearly agitated adult.

Phew, I’m glad those days are over. I’m also so thankful that my own children are able to see the connection between their choices and the consequences that follow. They understand a consequence as the result of something a person does. It has been the single most transformative aspect of their experience in a school that uses natural and logical consequences to teach personal responsibility.

So what do we mean by natural and logical consequences?

Natural consequences are the inevitable result of a child’s own actions. For example, despite your urging him to put his lunch in his backpack, your eight-year old forgets his lunch and goes to school without it. The natural result is that he gets hungry. This result is a consequence of a choice your child made. It is his responsibility to put his lunch in his backpack.

Logical consequences happen as a result of a child’s action, but are imposed by the designated adult. For example, your child runs with a large stick in her hand at recess after she was told it was an unsafe choice. The logical consequence for the adult to impose is to not allow her to use sticks at recess or restrict her play space to the playground (rather than the natural spaces) for the rest of the week. Logical consequences are most useful when a child’s action could result in harm to the child or others. Logical consequences are reasonable and related to the problem.

Natural and logical consequences result from choices children make about their behavior. In effect, they choose the consequence they experience.

Often times, the consequence which naturally or logically follows our child’s behavior is unpleasant. By allowing our children to experience the pleasant or unpleasant consequence of their behavior, we help them learn what happens because of the behavior choices they made. Ultimately, we are helping them become responsible human beings.

Here are some tips for allowing natural and logical consequences to work their magic:

  1. Think ahead and come up with prepared responses to common “pain points” (the repeated behaviors that are the most common areas of struggle in your family) and make sure everyone in the family is on the same page.
  2. Stay calm. State your prepared response or say, “I have to think on this and will discuss this with you when I’ve had time to think this through.”
  3. Allow your child to experience the consequences. Do not step in and “save” them.
  4. Stay consistent. Often, it takes many experiences of “feeling” the consequences before you see a shift in behavior and decision making.

Allowing natural and logical consequences to shape our children is hard. It’s the tough-minded part of the job- no doubt, but it’s also the most important part of raising responsible and resilient humans. I remind myself of this every time I am tempted to step in and save my boys from experiencing the consequences of their choices and, even then, I still fall short some days (I call this the “knowing-doing” gap).

However, this is what I know for sure: A child learning and growing within the framework of choices and consequences at school and at home will flourish.

Sometimes tough is kind.

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