By Emory Luce Baldwin, LCMFT, Certified PEP Parent Educator
I sometimes hear about the terrible struggles parents have with logical consequences. They usually ask something along the lines of: “What is THE right logical consequence for this particular bit of naughtiness I’m staring at this moment, and how soon can I make it work?!”
These questions always take me back to the days when I first learned about logical consequences in a PEP class. I was blown away by my leaders’ descriptions of how they used logical consequences to reform their children from naughty little kids into something more closely approximating model family citizens. Me, too! I thought. These logical consequences sounded so elegant, so civilized, so . . . effective! Goodbye Monster Mommy, and hello Calm, Sane, Logical Mommy. I couldn’t wait to put this great idea to work.
And so I diligently memorized the Four R’s to help me (Reasonable! Related! Respectful! Promotes Responsibility!). But those darn Four R’s didn’t help me at all when I faced down a 4-year-old who wouldn’t pick up her mess or a 9-year-old who mumbled “OK, OK” before disappearing without doing what he was supposed to. What came to mind then was something like, “I’m really frustrated, really upset, feeling really dumb and, yes, I’m still REALLY mad!”
“Now what?” I wondered. I thought that I was supposed to impose a logical consequence because there was no convenient natural consequence to teach my children what happens when they don’t pick up their toys or don’t set the table. (And why is there no little bolt of lightening when you need one?)
But, having given up my usual favorite tools (nagging, yelling and threatening), I was bereft. I was very sure that I wanted my children to do what was Reasonable, Respectful and Responsibility-promoting. I already knew we were Related, so that R was taken care of. But I couldn’t for the life of me think of the right logical consequence when I needed it.
So back to PEP I went, and then I took PEP II. There I heard many more examples from my leaders of the terrific logical consequences they so frequently used, which I shamelessly copied. My daughter didn’t pick up her toys after my one friendly reminder, then into the “Saturday Box” they went. My son slithered away without setting the table? No dinner was served until he slunk back to do it.
These experiences encouraged me. I was becoming less of a Monster Mommy and more like a Sane, Calm Mommy. But I still yearned to craft a Logical Consequence of my very own. One that I could oh, so casually mention in my conversations with my fellow PEP parents, and perhaps convince them that I, too, was becoming a truly elegant and civilized parent.
Emory Luce Baldwin is a PEP leader, family therapist and co-author of Parenting with Courage and Uncommon Sense.
Tomorrow: Learning to Craft a Logical Consequence