Parenting and Beyond

The Importance of Natural Consequences for Your Children

One of the biggest parenting challenges I face is stepping back and allowing my children to face the natural consequences of their actions.

a family walking off into the sunset, mom on the left, dad on the right, two young children in between them, all are holding hands the text below the image  reads "the importance of natural consequences for young children"

“Mama, can I snuggle with you?” My five year old has tip-toed into our room. It’s nearly 10 pm and I was just about to dose of myself.

My husband is already snoozing next to me and let’s out a grunt in protest as my son wiggles into bed.

“What’s wrong buddy?” I ask, I know the answer, but I want to hear him say it.

“I can’t stop thinking about my watch.” he replies, as the tear begin to flow down his face.

Earlier in the day we had decided to take the kids to an indoor trampoline park. It’s one of our favorite outings as a family. And it never fails to completely tire out the boys.

Today was no exception, fun was had by all. With one minor hiccup. My oldest son lost his watch.

And not just any watch. His Catboy Watch. He got this watch over the summer for his birthday and has worn it just about every day since.

He believes it gives him magical super hero powers, and it has become part of his daily superhero costume. (Along with a black hoodie, fingerless Spiderman gloves, and a green light saber. Of course.)

When he has that watch he transforms into his own version of a superhero. Waving his light saber around and rescuing his little brothers from the impending doom of broccoli at dinner.

And now the watch is gone.

And he is sad. So sad that he is awake, hours past his normal bed time, unable to sleep. In complete disbelief that his watch is no more.

The Importance of Natural Consequences

Right after he lost the watch we spent a good chunk of time looking for it. The watch had fallen off in the foam pit….a trampoline covered in small foam cubes. Three feet deep, impossible to get to the bottom. And the more children that jumped into the foam pit, the further things sink.

Things like watches.

And my little boy’s heart.

And my heart….if you’re asking.

I stood there hopeless as he dug and dug, but it was no use. The watch was gone and he was in tears.

As his mother I wanted nothing more than to wipe his tears and tell him it would be ok. That we could stop at the store on the way home and and replace the watch. It would have been so easy.

How his face would have lit up! How his heart would have soared.

My heart would have soared too. After all, one of my greatest joys as a mother is to make my boys happy. But no, not this time. There would be no motherly rescuing this time.

Because he has to learn to face the natural consequences of his actions.

See the rest of the story is that Daddy had told him to leave the watch in the car. And my 5yo refused. Then we suggested he take off the watch and place it in the diaper bag, with his glasses, where it would be safe, and he refused.

And it wasn’t 10 minutes later that the watch was gone. Buried in a sea of foam, never to be found again.

And so as much as it hurt, we went home that day, watchless and heartbroken, and let him face the reality that he lost his watch and we would not be replacing it for him.

The afternoon was tough as he had moments of clarity, moments where he realized he couldn’t tell the time anymore and his superhero costume was incomplete.

I watched him as he tried to process his grief. And I did my best to hold his hand and walk with him through his journey of many, many emotions.

But ultimately, we made the difficult decision to let him face those natural consequences.

Because one day in life we won’t be there. We won’t be there to replace what he has lost or broken. We won’t be there to warn him not to do something rash or foolish.

He’ll have to do that all by himself. And if we don’t teach him now, when the stakes are small, it will be far too costly to teach him when he’s older.

So we start now, with a $15 watch, that he will eventually forget.

And hope and pray that the lesson of natural consequences sinks in now. So that one day, when he is an adult and mommy isn’t there to pull him into bed and rub his back until he falls asleep, he knows how to make the right decisions the first time.

How have you allowed your children to face natural consequences? Share with me below!

a mother and her son sitting on the floor looking at one another, smiling; this is the feature image for an article titled "The importance of letting your children face natural consequences" by the parenting blog Forgotten Lattes; text below reads "the importance of natural consequences for your children"