The mantra of CPS- Collaborative problem solving is that ' Children do well if they can' , they would prefer to do well and be adaptive so the problem is not a motivational one , but involves lagging skills and unmet concerns. Natural consequences don't teach lagging skills and remediate any other underlying issues that trigger problems.
SDT – Self Determined Theory posits that when kids needs for autonomy, competence and relationship are met , kids become more self determined and intrinsically motivated.
Natural consequences are a form of control by ' inaction' , don't teach skills and undermine the relationship with the parent or other care giver - the message the child comes away with is - you did not seem to care enough about her to lift and finger to help prevent the mishap.
SDT – Self Determined Theory and research teaches that the more we use extrinsic motivators such as rewards, punishments and consequences the less likely it is that children will internalize the 'lesson' we want to teach . We know that even when children are "successfully" reinforced or consequenced into compliance, they will likely feel no commitment to what they are doing, no deep understanding of the act and its rationale, no sense of themselves as the kind of people who would want to act this way in the future. They have been led to concentrate on the consequences of their actions to themselves, and someone with this frame of reference bears little resemblance to the kind of person we dream of seeing each of our students or children become.
What about the impact of natural consequences ?
It would seem that because parents are not ' consequencing ' their kids , kids would more readily internalize the message that a natural consequence teaches .
'The thing about natural consequences is that they are not imposed, they are the natural outcomes of a situation. If I miss a bus I will probably wait for the next one to come along or consider other options such as taking a taxi. I accept these as the natural consequences of my having missed the bus. I do not give up on my journey. Neither am I likely to hear a voice saying "Thou hast missed thy bus therefore thou must await another". In normal life nobody out there "consequences" me; the consequences arise out of my inner sense of responsibility and my inner quality world, what I want ... and what I still want even if I have missed the bus.' - Brian Lennon
This rather different to the discipline strategies known as " ' natural consequences ' , which invites parents to discipline by inaction – that is refusing to help. If a child is late for dinner , we're supposed to refuse to heat up dinner for the child let her go hungry . If she leaves her raincoat at school, we're supposed to let her get wet the following day. This is said to teach her to be more punctual , or less forgetful , or whatever.' Alfie Kohn then reminds us
It’s Not What We Teach; It’s What They Learn
'But the more powerful lesson that she is likely to take away is that we could have helped – but didn't. When you stand by and let bad things happen, your child experiences the twin disappointments that something went wrong and you did not seem to care enough about her to lift and finger to help prevent the mishap. The natural consequences approach is really a form of punishment - punishment lite- and can be more humiliating and make a child feel worse when accompanied by ' I told you so' , ' It serves you right ' or I hope you have learned your lesson' " – Alfie Kohn - Unconditional Parenting
Consequences , natural and logical maybe be ineffective at successfully ' reinforcing kids' or getting compliance because kids don't have the skills to process the information , use foresight and hindsight to reflect on the possible natural consequences of their actions.
Suffering consequences does not teach lacking skills. It does the opposite – undermines self esteem and teaches kids to lie and avoid dealing with the issues.
When we use consequences , and even natural ones , we give children the message that we cannot communicate with them and if they act inappropriately they will suffer consequences . A more positive message is to teach children , that we all can make mistakes and we are there to help them do better and come up with a better plan. Just as we can make mistakes , we can fix them.
' Mistakes are our friends ' is a message kids should be taught both for academic and socio-moral learning. Mistakes are windows of opportunity for learning and finding solutions for problems. When we welcome mistakes , we support the child's autonomy to reflect on problems in the context of his concerns, goals and expectations.
When people or children make mistakes , what behavior should we be modeling. If a friend spills a drink , do we let her clean up alone or do we offer to help , why should it be different when a child spills his drink ?
When kids suffer the unfortunate outcomes and natural consequences of their actions , a supportive and empathic approach from parents will help them internalize not only the impact of their behaviors and come up with a better plan , but also help them learn to be caring people who will be willing to help others who need help .