In the two years since my oldest child began attending a Montessori preschool, I have learned a lot about the Montessori method and how to use some of those theories in our own household. One of those theories revolves around consequences and how they are delivered. In Montessori "natural" and "logical" consequences tend to dominate over more traditional punishments like time-out with the theory being that more traditional punishments tend to teach children not to do something because we say so. Consequences, on the other hand, teach them why we say so in the first place (natural), that every action has a reaction (logical) and that while we have the power to choose, we must also accept the consequence for that choice. On the surface this seems like common sense, but it took a little practice to learn how to use natural and logical consequences effectively within our household. Now that we've gotten in the habit, we generally find them to be far more effective than punishments. Here's why:
The phrase "natural consequences" essentially just means consequences that are the result of a child's own actions without enforcement by the caregiver. Forget your umbrella in the rain? You will get wet. Drop a glass on the floor? It will break and you will have to clean it up. As adults we've experienced these natural consequences over and over and it's how we've learned lessons. As parents, however, we often shield our children from these consequences. We remind them of their jackets, umbrellas, lunches and we carry their dishes for them because we fear they cannot be careful enough to do it themselves.
But what if we didn't? What if, as long as the child was not at risk for injury, we stopped doing all of that and let them experience the consequences for themselves? Allowing for the natural consequence takes the power struggle between parent and child off the table, empowers the child by letting them make decisions for themselves and, ultimately, teaches the lesson in a way that may make a lasting impact. So, next time your child refuses to do their homework, let them face the teacher on their own the next morning. They want to go play in cold weather without their gloves? Remind them that the gloves will be waiting when they change their mind.
"Logical consequences" are actions taken by the caregiver. The child misbehaves at dinner? They must leave the table. The child refuses to wear a helmet on his/her bike? They lose access to the bike. Every choice comes with a consequence. The child is still empowered to make their own choice, they just may not like the consequence. In our house, these are not debatable consequences they just are. Upset that the toy got taken away after you refused to pick it up? Well, that's what happens. #sorrynotsorry (insert emoji of mom shrugging her shoulders here).
The reality is that, as adults, consequences are what influence most of what we do on a daily basis. It is through unpleasant outcomes that we have learned lessons and become responsible people. By not allowing children to experience the natural or logical consequence of a behavior, we may be delaying them from actually learning the lesson. Sure, they may stop running in the house after enough time-outs, but also may not truly understand why they aren't supposed to run in the house until they trip and fall. They are going to learn the hard way at some point, I don't know about you, but I would much rather that be now instead of later.
Photography by Paiges of Gray