5 Things Kids Learn from Natural Consequences

5 Things Kids Learn from Natural Consequences

Overview: It isn’t always easy to allow our kids to feel the STING of the consequences of their actions, but it’s definitely effective. Tired of NAGGING your kids?!?!? Try implementing some natural consequences instead. The difference is DRAMATIC!

It still doesn’t happen very often. But every time I hear my boys say, “You were right, Mom!” it warms my heart.

And I think that allowing my boys to experience natural consequences for their behavior has definitely helped my boys to become mature young men more rapidly than they otherwise would have.

5 Things Kids Learn from Natural Consequences

When my boys were in their tweens, I could only dream of the day when they would understand and agree with what I was asking them to do. But now that they’re in their upper teens, I can see that my diligence with them is paying off.

It isn’t always easy to allow our kids to feel the sting of the consequences of their actions but it is definitely effective.

Several years ago, we changed up our homeschool in some pretty dramatic ways. And it didn’t take long before we all felt a difference.

Once I stopped forcing my sons to wake up at a specific time and started letting them manage their own time throughout the day, I saw a lot of growth in them. I think that one of the huge reasons I saw such a change in my sons’ attitudes and behavior was because of the power of natural consequences.

I first remember hearing about natural consequences while reading Dr. Kevin Leman’s book, “Have a New Kid by Friday.” In this book, Kevin talks about how kids learn best when we allow them to experience the sting of the natural consequences of their behavior.

This is actually a way of blessing our children!

Some examples of natural consequences would be things like:

  • A child refuses to get dressed for church, so they go to church with their pajamas on.
  • A child refuses to eat the food which is served, so they go hungry during that meal. They don’t get to eat snacks.
  • A teen refuses to wear a coat when going on a youth group trip and they will get cold.
  • An adult is chronically late for work and they don’t receive a hoped-for promotion.
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As you can see, both adults and kids can learn from the consequences of their behavior. Learning from natural consequences is much more effective than learning from a mom nagging or yelling at you when you don’t do what you’re supposed to do.

I’ve been very happy with the changes I’ve seen in my boys as a result of natural consequences in the past several homeschool years.

Here are 5 Things My Boys Have Learned from Natural Consequences:

1. Wake me up

Instead of wanting to sleep the day away, one of my sons specifically asked me to start waking him up in the morning. Initially, he wanted to get up at 8 am so that he had plenty of time to get his schoolwork done before lunchtime.

Turns out, he missed having his free time in the afternoon and he decided that “10 am really is too late to sleep in.”

As my sons got older, they began waking up at 6:30 and 7:00 again, just like they used to when they were younger. Allowing them to sleep in when they were going through their tweens and early teens didn’t hurt them at all.

It allowed them to get the sleep they needed during those tumultuous years filled with hormones and crazy growth. And as young adults, they are both able to wake up in time for work.

One of my sons even starts between 4am and 6am every morning and he gets up on his own just fine.

2. Spread out the hard subjects

When I first started letting my sons choose when they worked on each subject, they often saved up all of their math, Latin, and writing for the end of the week. That made Fridays very painful!

It also made it much more likely that they would have to finish up their work either Friday night or Saturday.

After having that happen a few times, my boys have both started trying to spread out their hard subjects a bit more. They decided that one math lesson per day works best.

Latin words are much easier to learn when you actually practice them every day. And you can come up with quality papers when you give yourself time to think through your assignments before attempting to get your words on paper.

3. Checklists are helpful

My sons used to balk at the fact that I wanted them to check off each subject after they had completed it for the day. Once they had one checklist for each week, they began to realize just how helpful checklists can actually be.

After operating this way for several weeks, one of my sons told me how good it felt to be able to look back at his weekly checklist and see all of the things that he had completed that week. He said it felt satisfying.

Yep. I feel the same way, son!

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4. Easing into the week is kinda nice

We’ve gotten into a rhythm where my boys have been enjoying spending most their time on Mondays and Tuesdays doing their reading for the week. They are usually tired on Mondays because weekends are often busy in our household.

I think I’m the one who is learning this lesson. I’m learning that Mondays can be less painful and my boys will still get their schoolwork done by the end of the week.

5. Saturdays stink when you haven’t finished your schoolwork

Fortunately, it didn’t take very many Saturdays of having unfinished schoolwork for my boys to figure this one out. Who wants to do math worksheets on a Saturday?!?

No one at my house, anyway.

My boys have learned that it’s much less painful to get your schoolwork done during the week than to lollygag around and have to complete it on the weekend.

These lessons are being learned naturally without me having to nag them incessantly. I can’t tell you how nice that has been for all of us.

Instead of feeling like I need to trail behind them and hurry them along, I’ve been sitting back and letting them choose how hard they will work each day. When they choose wisely, they reap the benefits.

When they choose poorly, they suffer the consequences.

→ Related Content: 7 Ways to Help Boys Love to Learn

If you’re interested in reading more about natural consequences or more of Dr. Kevin Leman’s advice, I recommend you check out his books “Have a New Kid by Friday” and “Have a New Teenager by Friday. It isn’t always possible to use natural consequences; but when it is, it can be very effective.

Question: Have you tried using natural consequences at your house? Do you have any tips you can share? Please leave a comment below.

5 Things Kids Learn from Natural Consequences

13 thoughts on “5 Things Kids Learn from Natural Consequences”

  1. I love this! I think I may have read “Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours”, but if I did it was quite a few years ago. The advice of natural consequences sounds very familiar.

    My son (age 15) does sort of set his own schedule and for the most part gets done what needs to be done. Though, if I am at all wishy-washy on due dates, things get pushed off. My question to you is, how do you handle the subjects that you need to be involved with?. For example, I do the math lesson with him. I wouldn’t want Friday to come around and have to spend hours doing an entire week’s worth of math lessons with him. It seems pretty obvious that I would just say that we need to do math lessons daily. But that seems to also be the case with German. And then there is the writing program DVD that I like to watch with him… Perhaps I need to let go of some of these things myself, but then if any questions come up, I need to spend time getting up to speed.

    I need to do some more thinking on this because I do think it is a valuable skill to learn how to budget your time.

    Thanks for a great post,

    1. Michelle Caskey

      Good question, Sarah! There are certain things that my boys need to do daily – devotions, cat chore, watch the news, and read aloud time with me. Other than that, I let them decide when they will do each subject. If they need or want my help, they know that they need to work it around each other because I can’t help them both with different things at the same time. And if it’s a subject we do together, like logic, they need to both be ready to do it at the same time.

      Maybe to start, you could have him do math, German, and the writing DVD on certain days and he can schedule the rest? You’ll have to decide what works best for you and your son. 🙂

      It takes time for things to shake out and for them to come up with a schedule that works well for everyone… but it does happen. I would still prefer that my boys worked harder on Mondays and had a lighter day on Fridays… but that isn’t the way they like it. I’ve had to learn to embrace my free time on Mondays because my boys are gonna need/want more of my help on Thursdays and Fridays.

      Let me know how it goes! I’d love to hear back from you after you’ve had time to ponder and have come up with a plan. 🙂

      1. Thanks, Michelle. I am going to spend some time this weekend mulling this over. I think a big part of the problem is me not setting definite due dates, so if I get more organized, that will probably help him!


  2. This is EXCELLENT! But I’m so afraid to try it, lol!! Somehow it always seems like natural consequences for my son spill over to the rest of the family (namely, ME), too! What do you do when his lack of planning becomes your emergency? I confess I might resent it if I had to change my Thursday and Friday because he wanted to relax on his Monday and Tuesday… what is your mindset that helps you to do that? It’s probably just called “being a parent”, lol… 🙂 P.S. I love reading your blog because I only have one boy and lotsa girls. I am often clueless about him, and you have helped me MANY times! 🙂

    1. Michelle Caskey

      Thank-you! I’m glad you’ve been able to find helpful info on my blog. Boys can be SO confusing for us moms! 🙂

      It didn’t come naturally for me to accept them wanting to make Mondays and Tuesdays easier and leave their harder work for later in the week. It became easier for me, however, when I saw how much better their attitudes became. When I tried to push them to do things my way, there was a lot of tension and teenage angst. When I backed off and let them make this decision, the mood in our home lightened considerably! I hate conflict so it was a no brainer for me.

      And the key to their lack of planning teaching them is that it becomes THEIR emergency and not YOURS. You can’t do this with everything… but we certainly can with their homeschool subjects. Give them a deadline and allow them to miss it. As long as there are consequences in place such as having to finish on Friday night or Saturday, or missing out on a fun youth group event because they have to finish their schoolwork first, the painful consequences of their decision should go a long way towards helping them to make better ones in the future. I hope that helps!

      1. I really have a hard time with natural consequences. I set due dates but they disregard them. I don’t know a consequence. If i say they have to do the work in the evening or weekend, they look at me weird and they just don’t do it. The 17yo is more prone to doing this than the 16yo (and 13yo d) . Sport- cricket so team sport that they can’t pull out of at that level, youth – after training so they stay in town, computers – their father just lets them on whenever they want despite me trying to set limits. And how do you force a17yo to hand over a phone he’s playing games on instead of school work bc he thinks he’ll entitled to do it (just as his father has taught him for the past 12 yrs)? Stuck and frustrated

        1. The first thing you need to try to do is to get on the same page with your husband. If your kids know that you don’t agree about this issue, you’re going to have a hard time getting them to take you seriously. You’re a team! Have a serious, private conversation with him about your concerns.

          If you’re able to get that sorted out, then the next step is for both of you to sit your kids down and have a family meeting. Tell them that participating in sports, having a phone, and whatever else they enjoy is a privilege and that they need to fulfill their responsibilities before they’re able to earn their privileges. Do you pay for your son’s cellphone? Maybe he needs to start paying the bill if he isn’t going to respect what you’ve asked him to do? And honestly, I think that missing cricket is DEFINITELY something you can threaten to take away. Disappointing the team will be a huge deterrent.

          But you do need to be careful. At age 17 and 16, our kids have entered a new phase of life where they are becoming more independent. Some of the natural consequences they will experience will be down the road if they aren’t able to get into the college they would like or are unable to take an entrance test for a job. Explain to them that you’re on their side and you’re trying to help prepare them for the rest of their life and hopefully at some point they will listen.

          It’s a tough age to parent. Hopefully some of what I’ve said will be helpful. I also recommend you do lots of praying. You don’t have control of what you’re kids do but God can change their hearts. Hang in there!!!

  3. I have at times used natural consequences but not always. I have read his book, but wasn’t sure if I should try it as yet, and I think I agreed with some of his thoughts, just not all of them. It was a long time ago when I read it! 😀

    1. Michelle Caskey

      You need to use your judgement. It isn’t always possible – especially for younger kids. If your toddler is running out into the road you can’t stand by and let them get hit by a car in order to learn from natural consequences. But we can save ourselves a lot of grief if we let our older kids learn by them on occasion. For instance, I used to get really worked up trying to convince my boys to wear warm clothing outside on cold days. I have since discovered that if I leave it up to them and they end up freezing their tushies off, then next time they’ll choose warmer options. I still make suggestions but I don’t try to force my wisdom on them as much. I’m letting them develop some of their own wisdom from making good (or bad) choices.

  4. This is an excellent post. I make my children set alarms for when they want to get up and am watching them sleep when they forget seems to be a slow and painful lesson. If the day gets started late and they don’t get to play they are not happy. They learned years ago to get chores done early for the same reason. My children do not have bedtimes either. They seem to like this and have learned to go to bed at a reasonable time. Thank you for sharing this post! Love it!

  5. One of the hardest “natural consequences” my son learned was losing a job because of sleeping through his alarm. When he turned 16 (he’s now almost 17) he got a job at a national home improvement store. He was late 3 times because he didn’t wake up in time and got fired. And it was unfortunate because his work ethic was excellent and he was well-liked and worked hard. And the money was very good for a teenager! But rules are rules and being late will get you hired. Fortunately, he got another job at a grocery store and it’s working out much better. It was hard for me to not go in his room and go through the craziness of waking him up. He will still sleep through his alarm but the more I back off, the better.

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