How Are Logical Consequences Different From Punishment?

Danny rips to shreds his sister’s masterpiece. You grab him and escort him to his room for a time out. Or, you sit beside him and say, “Diane will be upset when she sees what you’ve done to her picture. People don’t like it when someone ruins something they’ve worked hard on making. How do you think you can make it up to her? After you’ve discussed a few options, you can let Danny choose which one he thinks is best. This scenario exemplifies how logical consequences and punishment are different.

o Logical consequences are impersonal. They are rooted in the rules of living, which everyone has to abide with. Punishment, on the other hand, is what you decide to do at that moment. You are the one calling the shots. Children cannot blame you for following through on society’s rules, but they can blame you for imposing your power over them.

o Punishment is often arbitrary, whereas logical consequences flow naturally from the misbehaviour. Sending Danny to his room is an arbitrary punishment which does not logically connect to what he did. By asking Danny to decide on his own retribution, you are ensuring that his consequence makes sense to him.

o Logical consequences let Danny save face. Would you send your husband to his room if he forgot to take out the garbage? Chances are you have more respect for your spouse than that. Talking to Danny and helping him work out his problem shows goodwill and tells Danny you respect him and his decisions. Your tone of voice is friendly and matter-of-fact, not angry or critical. You have to be genuine, a punitive attitude will undermine the benefits of logical consequences. You may find it easier to wait until your blood stops boiling, before you try working out a consequence with your child.

o Punishment is usually an all or none affair–either you obey or you don’t. Logical consequences always give children a choice, which helps them learn how to make responsible decisions. Don’t try to change your child’s mind, even if you know it’s doomed for failure. Children learn a lot from their own mistakes.

o When you punish a child you are in fact saying to him, “You are a bad boy,” and your behavior is telling him, “I don’t like you.” Is this what you want him to think? Logical consequences on the other hand say, “What you did wasn’t right,” but your non-punitive attitude assures him that you still like him.