Let’s face it—children are constantly testing limits. And sometimes, you might be frustrated, wondering what to do and how to get your children to behave appropriately. Using logical consequences can be an effective tool for stopping challenging behavior and teaching responsibility in the classroom.
This article will help you understand how logical consequences can stop challenging behavior, when to use them in the classroom, and how to teach children to understand consequences.
What are logical consequences?
Logical consequences are an approach to discipline used by teachers and parents to guide children in taking responsibility for their challenging behavior so they can correct and learn from their actions while maintaining their dignity.
Austrian-born American psychiatrist and educator Rudolf Dreikurs developed this approach to help parents and educators understand the cause of difficult behavior and encourage cooperative behavior in children. Dreikurs developed this approach from Alfred Adler’s system of individual psychology and defined logical consequences as “reasonable results that follow behavior either desirable or non-desirable”. Adler and Dreikur believed encouragement is crucial for improving behavior and human relationships.
Unlike natural consequences, which occur without adult influence, logical consequences are set by an adult. For example, if a child runs too fast, the natural consequence is they’ll fall. On the other hand, if a child draws on the wall, the logical consequence involves a teacher instructing them to clean what they drew off the wall. Teachers can use logical consequences in the classroom, or they can combine them with other strategies like behavior charts to promote certain behaviors.
The goal of logical consequences is to encourage positive behavior and not to punish. To effectively administer this approach, teachers must consider these 3 R’s:
The consequences must be directly related to the behavior. For example, if a child draws on the wall, asking them to sit in the “naughty corner” is not a related consequence. Instead, the teacher must instruct them to wipe off the drawing. Related consequences make behavioral expectations clear to the child.
The consequence must also be age-appropriate and fair. For example, if Hailey grabbed a doll from Diane, subjecting Hailey to the “naughty corner” wouldn’t be reasonable. Instead, the teacher must encourage Hailey to give the doll back to Diane and apologize to her. Harsh consequences will cause resentment in the child.
The consequence must not involve shaming or blaming the child. The teacher must communicate and enforce the consequence with a respectful tone while showing empathy. This will help the child understand that it’s not a punishment but an encouragement to behave appropriately. For example, if Liam speaks rudely when trying to get the teacher’s attention, the teacher can say calmly, “Liam, I would like to help you, but only if you speak politely,” and then return to whatever they were doing until Liam speaks politely.
Consequence vs punishment
A consequence is a result of an action or event. It can be a natural consequence, for example, when a child refuses to wear a jacket, they might feel cold. Or, it can be a logical consequence, such as an adult having a child apologize after hitting another child. The goal of consequences is to encourage a child to accept responsibility and to teach them to make positive choices. Consequences also help them develop self-control.
Punishment, on the other hand, is an unpleasant or undesirable outcome inflicted by an authority to instill harm, fear, or loss. Punishment is typically delivered in anger, with the goal of maintaining control; it can also be used to guilt, shame, and impose authority. Common punishments often imposed on children include harsh verbal disapproval, spanking, and having the child sit in a corner with their face to the wall.
A punishment might stop the misbehavior in the moment, but it won’t help a child take responsibility or learn from their mistakes. Punishment typically doesn’t work because it tends to reinforce a child’s negative view of self, makes the child angry and resentful, and creates emotional distance. Dreikurs considered punishment an ineffective method of discipline. He believed it was offensive and humiliating and saw it as an action taken by the teacher in revenge to show their students who’s in charge.
Logical consequences examples
Let’s discuss the different types of logical consequences to give you more insight.
“You break it, you fix it”
This consequence is perfect for teaching children to take responsibility for their actions, whether they were intentional or accidental. They learn that if they cause a problem, they must fix it. For example, if a child accidentally knocks over another child’s food, the teacher can prompt them to apologize and help clean it up.
Loss of privilege
This consequence applies when a child breaks one of the classroom rules. Classroom rules are pre-established expectations the teacher sets with the children's input. When a child defies or forgets the rules, they’ll face the consequence of losing a privilege directly related to the behavior. For example, if a child plays unsafely on one of the outdoor toys, the teacher can instruct them to use a different one for the rest of the recess period. Or, if a child waves around scissors during art class, they lose the privilege to use them for the rest of the art period.
Positive time-out or “take a break”
This consequence supports effective classroom management. When a teacher notices that a child is about to have a temper tantrum or emotional outburst, they can remove the child from the situation to prevent it from escalating and disrupting the class. The teacher can put the child in a quiet area of the class suitable for them to calm down and recover self-control. The child can return when they are ready to interact positively.
It’s essential to explain to the class that a positive time-out is not bad and gives everyone the space they need to calm down. For example, when a child continuously argues rudely with the teacher after being asked to stop, the teacher can send them to the positive time-out spot for one to two minutes to calm down.
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Logical consequences in the classroom
A teacher must be calm to give related, reasonable, and respectful consequences when a child is misbehaving. Teachers can use logical consequences when a child breaks the rules and when simple cues aren’t effective. Most teachers will find using logical consequences in the classroom to be effective when a child:
- Calls out answers without waiting their turn
- Makes fun of another child
- Continuously whispers/talks to the child next to them while the teacher gives an instruction
- Persists in speaking disruptively to the teacher
- Waves objects (like pencils and scissors) around dangerously instead of using them properly
- Continuously rocks their chair or sits way back in the chair
- Plays unsafely outdoors, like carelessly swinging a baseball bat or playing on a slide the wrong way
- Pushes another child intentionally
- Knocks over objects or property held or carried by another child, like crayons, food, or a bag
By three years old, children typically understand verbal explanations and rationalizations, meaning they have the cognitive skills to understand logical consequences. To help young children understand the concept of consequences, you can teach precursors like “why-because”, “might”, and “before and after”:
This concept stimulates a child's thinking and helps them make a connection between two actions. The best way to teach it is through modeling. You can do this by making a statement to your class and having them ask “why” in response. Then you can respond and give a reason that starts with the word “because”. For example, you can say “I like coming to school every morning.” Children ask, “Why?” and you respond, “Because I get to see you all.”
This concept teaches children the idea of possibility, because you never know what will happen. For example, you can ask your class to consider phrases like, “How might Ryan react if you lost a toy he gave you?”
Before and after
Present two sequential actions to your class, asking them which comes before the other. For example, “On a cold day, which do you do first: put on your jacket or go outside?”
After learning the basics of consequences, it becomes easier for children to understand the consequences of their actions, especially if they’re directly related to the action.
Teach good behavior using logical consequences
Logical consequences are a powerful tool for instilling responsibility and fostering growth in children. By connecting the consequences of their actions directly to their behavior, you encourage them to think critically and make better choices. This approach emphasizes learning and personal development rather than punishment, creating an environment that promotes empathy, problem-solving, and accountability.
While it may require patience and consistency, the long-term benefits of using logical consequences far outweigh the short-term convenience of traditional disciplinary methods. By embracing logical consequences, you can foster a positive and respectful environment where children thrive and grow into responsible individuals.
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