What is a logical consequence? This is not that easy to parse out for some of us. I will give it a try here.
A logical consequence is an obvious outcome for positive or negative behavior. Seems straight forward, right? For example, if I go outside in winter without my jacket, logically, I will be cold. If I don’t want to be cold, next time I will wear my jacket. If I study for a test, logically, I will do better than if I don’t study. If I want to do the best I can, next time I will study before a test.
Actually, when children from difficult beginnings are involved in the equation, logical consequences have to be taught through repetition and short, novel experiences. If the sensory systems and executive functions don’t work very well due to trauma and abandonment, your child might go out in winter without a coat no matter how many times you let her go out without her coat and get cold. She might not have the ability to make obvious, logical decisions. Just as you wouldn’t let a two-year-old decide to go out without a coat in winter to teach a lesson, you need to help your wounded child of any age take care of herself through training, cueing, and repetition. What is logical for most parents, is not obvious for kids with slow to develop brains.
So, how can you teach a child from difficult beginnings to put on a jacket before going out, when it is cold outside? First, slow down. Make jackets plainly available by the door. Shoes, too, if that will make the whole get ready for winter routine easier. Tell your child, In winter it is often cold outside, so everyone puts on a jacket before going out, even when one is warm while inside.
Can you see what might be happening there? It is warm inside the house, therefore, your child may not have an environmental cue that a jacket is required. Yes, I know you know it is winter, you can hear the wind blowing outside, and see the rain hitting the window panes, but your child may not be tuned in to that at all. To bring the cues into your child’s awareness, you might call attention to the wind sounds, and the rain drops on the windows and ask, Can you hear the wind outside? See the rain drops on the window? What will you need to wear to stay warm when you go out? Your child might say gloves and miss the jacket all together. That’s okay. Gloves are good, too.
Take time for training, connect the cues in the environment, and make the goods plainly visible. If your child has trouble connecting the dots, you can put pictures of getting ready to go out in winter on a poster board by the door. Another way of giving novel experience, is to simply open the door. When your child feels the cold, ask, What do you need to wear to stay warm today? Then close the door and help put on a jacket. Letting your child go to school or outside in cold weather without a jacket to teach logical consequences is at best tone-deaf to the needs of your special child and at worst simply cruel, when that child does not have the self-awareness to learn the lesson.
The drawn out example above is an example that can be applied to nearly everything your child continues to do thoughtlessly–without thought. Insisting that a challenged child learn from logical consequences alone will not work, and punishment is never a replacement for loving, therapeutic parenting.
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