Why You Should Allow Your Teen to Face Natural Consequences

Letting Your Teen Experience Problems and Failure

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Natural consequences can be one of the most effective ways to discipline teens because it helps them learn from their own mistakes. However, natural consequences aren’t always appropriate. They should only be used when it’s safe to do so and when there’s a high probability that your teen will learn from his mistakes.

Why Natural Consequences Work

Allowing for natural consequences means stepping out of the way and allowing your teen to experience a problem on his own.

Unlike a logical consequence that is imposed by a parent, natural consequences work because they allow teens to see the consequences of their choices. Instead of thinking, “I can’t eat too many cookies because my mom won’t let me,” a teen who experiences natural consequences understands, “I can’t eat too many cookies because I’ll get a stomach ache.”

It’s good for teens to experience some discomfort. It can help them learn to make better choices next time and aid them in making better choices when you’re not there to tell them what to do.

Allowing your teen to experience failure sometimes is good as well. For example, if your teen doesn’t get his homework done, he’ll receive a poor grade. This can be an important life lesson for many teens.

When parents go to great lengths to prevent a teen from failing it can hurt them in the long-run. If you constantly nag your child to get his work done, he’ll only get it done because you said he had to.

Then, when he gets to college and you’re not there to tell him what to do, he may struggle to get it done on his own.

When teens experience natural consequences in a safe environment, it can give you a chance to ensure that it’s a learning experience.  You can discuss your teen’s experience and help your teen understand what he can do differently next time.

When to Use Natural Consequences

Before allowing for a natural consequence, really think about the likelihood that your teen will learn from it. Natural consequences affect children in different ways and it’s important to think about whether or it not will be an effective consequence for your child.

For example, if you have a teen who chooses to stay up late on a school night, he may be tired the next day when he drags himself out of bed for school. As a result, he may learn to go to sleep earlier in the future.

However, some teens may not learn from all natural consequences. Instead, they may continue to stay up late each night even though it may mean they’re so tired they fall asleep during school. Make sure that your teen will learn a life lesson from the natural consequence.

Your teen will need to view the consequence as negative. Otherwise, it won’t be effective. Think carefully about whether or not you should use a natural consequence with your teen.

Examples of natural consequences:

  • If your teen chooses not to wear a jacket when he goes outside, the natural consequence is that he’ll feel cold.
  • If your teen misses the school bus, the consequence is that he will have to walk to school.
  • If your teen spends all of his allowance right away, the consequence may be that he doesn’t have enough money to go to the movies with friends on the weekend.
  • If your teen doesn’t do his laundry, he won’t have clean clothes to wear.
  • If your teen doesn’t pack his lunch for school, he won’t have lunch to eat that day.

When to Avoid Natural Consequences

Natural consequences shouldn’t be used in all circumstances. If there is a potential safety risk or very serious consequence, don’t sit back and watch it happen.

For example, don’t allow your teen to get drunk in hopes that he’ll get sick and learn from it. Instead, prevent him from drinking in the first place. If a natural consequence isn’t appropriate or isn’t likely to be effective, try a logical consequence, a behavior contract, or assigning extra responsibilities.

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