natural consequences

OK so we all know that if you're going to issue a consequence it should be a natural one.

Kid throws dinner, you remove the plate.

Kid throws a dinosaur, you remove the dinosaur.

Kid throws a punch, you remove the hand. #CivilWarParenting #drinkthiswhiskey #bitethisstrap #holdhimmen #isaidholdhim

okay let me set the scene
i said
i said
tables are not for standing
and then


I like natural consequences because they're intuitive, not punitive - it's not like "you threw a dinosaur so I'm going to MAKE YOU PAY, SUCKA." It's like, "you threw a dinosaur, which could hurt someone, so I'm going to help you make a safer choice by removing the dinosaur." Natural consequences focus on solving the problem rather than shaming the child.

Honestly, natural consequences are GREAT. They're a godsend, the best thing to happen to parents since squeezy-pouches. Truly, they are the ONLY kind of consequences any loving parent should ever impose. And they are SO EASY to come up with in the moment!


Katie! Katie, wake up! You're gonna be late for school!

Oh honey, natural consequences are a sweet, sweet, sweet dream.

And sure, some dreams come true. One time I dreamed I was standing in front of a room of people in my underwear, and lo, a few years later I was a theater major. Another time I dreamed fire ants were slowly eating me alive, and lo, Donald Trump is running for president. But in all my 32 years I have never had Jeff Goldblum personally deliver my room service carrot cake wearing a tuxedo with the bow tie pulled loose. SOME DREAMS WILL NEVER COME TRUE. And such is the case with the idea of always having "natural consequences."

Sometimes the natural consequence hurts you way more than it helps to solve the problem. EXAMPLE.

Problem: Kid throws a remote at the TV.
Natural consequence: No more TV.


Sometimes your kid just, what's the clinical term, "sucks for awhile." And the natural consequence is we all have to live with him until he stops sucking. EXAMPLE.

Problem: Kid is whining. Nonstop whining. Can't form words. Just bleating sounds. Like a kid. Not a human kid. A goat kid. A kid kid.

Solution: Well, you tell me, Crackerjack Mack. I know that the solution should be talking to him about his upset feelings, but faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahck when that kid whines back at you the convo goes south in a hurry:

Mom: Honey? Come sit down with me in your favorite chair and let's see if we can figure out how you can feel a little bit better, huh pumpkin?

Kid: Nyee mee mee mwah nyah nyee mee--

Mom: STOPSTOPSTOPITNOW. (Takes a breath). Whew, sorry about that kiddo! It's just when you use a whining voice it really makes me feel frustrated that I can't understand your words! Can you please try to tell Mommy what's wrong using your big boy words?

Kid: Meeeeeuw nyah nyah mee-

Mom: NOPE STILL WHINING STOP WHINING STOP NOW. (Punches wall, smoothes hair). Okay, let's try something a little different. How about if we just sit quietly together until you feel like you can talk and I feel a little more... calm, hmm?

(Moments pass)

Kid: Mommy?

Mom: Yes, love of my life?


Mom: (bursts into flames)

Near as I can tell, the most natural consequence for whining is SILENCE. However you choose to achieve that goal is your business and my attorneys have advised me not to recommend any particular brand of tape.

And sometimes your kid does something batshit nutballs and the most natural consequence is to be like, "listen that was totally fucked up but also a really creative use of your environment to build a ladder, so... here's what I'm thinking. If you grow up to be a luminary I don't want you to be like 'My mom never understood me,' so I'm not going to punish you but I want a SOLID mention in any future acceptance speeches, got it? Also, I'm gonna take some pictures to share around but I'm definitely not, like, okay with this."

is that
did you take a dump too
i'm gonna go wider
and get one with the dump in it

got it

And sometimes your kid embarks on a mission to see how far you can bend until you snap. And the natural consequence, darlings, is to snap.


When Buster spit in my face, I was like "Natural consequence: I'm going to spit in your face MORE!" No, no, I didn't. I swallowed my foamy bloodlust and chose instead to speak calmly to my darling son. But hear me now, "American Academy of Pediatrics." I will abide by your tyranny while I have no other choice, but mark my words and the words of so many patriots whose voices cannot be silenced. These SOBs will get theirs. If we have to wait years, decades. If we have to wait until our children have children of their own, and we spend our precious time with our grandbabies coaching them on how to hoark up meaty nuggets of phlegm, cradle them lovingly in the cup of their tongues before loosing the load. If we have to wait to cry tears of joy when our grandchildren spit in the faces of our children, they will get theirs.


When Chicken legit choked me, wrapped his fingers around my windpipe, I was like, "Natural consequence: Neck access? Cut off. You will never get neck-distance from me EVER again. I'm gonna FaceTime your bedtime stories from now on. Mother-son wedding dance? The Macarena. Now go to your room with the iPad and wait for my call." Also not a sound plan. Kid loves FaceTime. And the Macarena.


Whenever I take the boys out in the double stroller, we return home and walk into the garage. Chicken doesn't get strapped into his stroller seat, so as soon as we're inside he slides out, beelines for the door to the house, opens the door, steps into the house, closes the door, and locks the deadbolt.

Natural consequence: Break the boy's fingers.

No, no, Katie, that's the rage talking.

Natural consequence: Just the thumb?

There will be no breaking of bones, Katie's Rage.

Natural consequence: OKAY, we just won't go anywhere. Ever again.

Really sound plan you've got there, Yellow Wallpaper. Can I talk to Rage again? Quick talkin' dingbat and come up with a natural consequence already. Think! He locked you out of the house. You...

Lock HIM out of the house!



The 4-year-old.

No, I didn't mean...

Lock the 4-year-old child out of the house, you're saying. Here. In the city. On a busy street, you're saying.

I didn't mean... I wasn't thinking for a LONG time.

JUST FOR A FEW MINUTES THEN? HERE? AT THE BUS STOP? No you're right I'm sure it'll be fine. I'm sure a kindly man in tight shorts will offer to take him to a puppy. And that'll be super for everybody.

OMG stop it you're the worst.

I'm in your head, boo boo. You're the worst.

Fuck it, I'll just put him in his room.

Or you could clip him into the stroller.

Holy shit.


It was there in front of me.

Oh yeah.

The whole time.

You're pretty dumb when you're mad.

Moral of the story?

Natural consequences are pretty great when they happen (can't believe I'm about to say this) organically. Those are what you call parenting wins. 

But when you're staring down a transgression so egregious, spit in the face, hands on your throat, the fucking snick of a deadbolt sliding home for the second time in 2 days, it can be pretty damn hard to set aside your all-too-human desire to quite simply punish that behavior to extinction, or worse, reflect that 4-year-old behavior back. So HE can see how it feels!

Now I'm not an expert here, but I'm pretty sure, "back at you but WORSE" is how the Cold War ended and we ended up super close with Russia. Right?

At times like that, when you want to issue a penalty so swift and merciless that it will result in immediate obedience, remorse, and helping with the laundry, a "natural consequence" is just a salad on the first day of your period. Totally the right move in the long run. SO not what you wanted.


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