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Helping Teens Learn Responsibility Through Natural Consequences: A Guide for Parents

Natural consequences are the things that happen in response to your child's behavior without a parent getting involved. These are imposed by nature, society, or another person.

This is the good news!  You do not actually deliver a natural consequence yourself. Instead, you allow nature or society to impose the consequence on your child by not interfering. So you do not have to fight with your teen or risk their wrath.  You just let it happen! (Yeah right!?)

They are some of the most effective methods of discipline and you don’t have to do the hard work! At least on paper, you don’t. The hard work for you as the parent is NOT INTERFERING. We will talk about that in a bit. 

Let's start with some examples of natural consequences for your teens.

  • If your child refuses to put on a coat, your child feels cold.
  • If your child won't eat, your child feels hungry.
  • If your child doesn't complete their homework, your child fails the assignment.
  • If your child breaks a rule on the sporting field, your child gets sent off.
  • If your child stays up late and is later for school, she feels tired the next day may fail a test.
  • If your child smokes marijuana, she may gain acceptance from her peers but she may be suspended from school if she's caught.
  • If your child shoplifts clothes from a store, she may get free clothes, but she also may get caught and arrested.

So you may have noticed that some of those consequences are reinforcing and positive Ugh! I know. It is not an exact science but the place you can show up and help it to be the most effective is below. 

It's hard because we don't want to see them hurt or suffer. So when our kids mess up we step in. We feel bad because they are upset and we do all we can to make it better. But we are no longer kissing booboos on their knees.

When we interfere with natural consequences, we stunt their growth and ultimately prevent them from learning how to live in society. 

Can you imagine what would happen if your child never learned the consequence of a stove or fire being hot? And you were not there to save them? 

We do what we do out of love. You can’t stand to see them hurt. But who is that serving?

Is it you or them?

Take a moment and think about the natural consequences in your child's life.

Is it the school's fault? Do you drop off their lunches and uniforms more than you should? Is it the coach's fault? Sometimes it can be, but let's dig deep and ask ourselves….. Are we allowing a culture of blaming outside forces rather than teaching them responsibility?

These are the ways we think we are helping but we are preventing them from learning life lessons and growing. 

Ok so what now? 

Step one: Recognize there is an issue. Spend some time thinking of the ways this has shown up in your parenting. Turn this into a list. Always write it down! It makes a difference to see it in writing. Make an opposite list of how you want it to be different. 

Step two: How will your family respond and be prepared? Remember, they may not be on board. Will you get pushback? Will it be ugly? How can you show up in a way that deescalates and leads them in a different direction? 

Step three: Step into action and lead your family with love. You can do it. So much of parenting is how we show up. If this is a struggle for you or you want to work together, reach out and let’s make a plan.

If you need support, I am available for Therapy in some states as well as Private and Group Coaching. Reach out today for a personalized plan for you and your family



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