Using Logical Consequences for Children’s Inappropriate Behaviors

Using Logical Consequences for Children’s Inappropriate Behaviors

One of my students asked me this week if it was okay that she stopped a 1st grade child from eating breakfast because she had been chatting the whole time and not eating. This child had been reminded repeatedly that she was running out of time to eat, and she still chose to talk and not eat. At the end of breakfast time, needless to say, the girl was very upset that the teacher insisted she go to the rug for morning meeting instead of getting more time to eat. Clearly this girl is testing her boundaries, and I replied to my student teacher, “Yes, of course it was okay to not give her more time!”
Children will always try testing how far they can go. (We all did ourselves, right?) It is our job to set firm limits in a kind, caring way, and to help children understand the reason for those limits. One way to do this is by using logical consequences. Often inappropriate behavior just naturally leads to such consequences. For example, if a child tears a book because he wasn’t using it gently, he should have to repair the book. If the behavior continues, he should not be able to use the library corner until he can demonstrate appropriate behavior.
Logical consequences are different from punishment:
1.      1. They are directly related to the inappropriate behavior. It would make no sense to take make a child sit in the corner for tearing a book, or write an essay about eating instead of chatting at breakfast.
2.      2. They are reasonable and realistic. Having a child fix all the books in the library is not reasonable. Requiring a child to miss breakfast the next day is not reasonable. 
3. They are delivered in a calm, matter-of-fact, kind way. This is extremely important. If you use demeaning language or a hostile tone of voice, you have slipped into punishment. Check out this video for an example of how to deliver logical consequences.

Think of logical consequences as a way of teaching a child the effects of her actions, rather than a punishment. You may have noticed that this is closely related to Apology-in-Action. Keep in mind that logical consequences won’t work in all situations, especially if a child is trying to escape from certain routines (for example, if the child really didn’t want to eat breakfast). However, it can be just the right thing for teaching children to make better choices. Here are a few more examples:

  •  Justin is knocking over children’s block creations in the block corner. The teacher tells Justin he must leave the block area today, but he will have another chance tomorrow to see if he remembers how to respect others’ blocks and space.
  • Meghan refuses to put on her hat or gloves during recess. She is visibly uncomfortable from the cold, but the temperature is not dangerous. The teacher does not intervene, and waits to remind Meghan tomorrow that she needs a hat and gloves.
  • Lenny doesn’t remember to raise his hand at group time. He is not called on. 
  • Jessica is careless with the caps to the markers. She loses her chance to use them that day.
  • Michael speaks in a rude way to the teacher. She refuses to talk to him until he calms down and speaks respectfully.
Let us know what types of logical consequences have worked for you!