Logical consequences are consequences for actions that are reasonable, respectful, and related to the action.
An example of a logical consequence is the “if you break it you buy it” principle. It is logical that breaking something in a shop means that you sould have to pay for it.
Logical Consequences Definition
Rudolf Dreikurs developed a model of social discipline (1968) based on Alfred Adler’s work on individual psychology.
This model is widely used in parenting and teaching.
It identifies two types of consequences to misbehavior: logical and natural.
- Logical consequences require that a child fix what they have done wrong. So, if a child breaks something, then they must fix it. The consequence of the misdeed is directly connected to the act. These consequences are a result of rules set by authority figures such as the teacher or parents.
- Natural consequences are a direct result of the behavior that would occur naturally in the environment. For example, leaning back in one’s chair will lead to it falling over and hurting or embarrassing the child. A natural consequence tends to be logical, but logical consequences don’t have to be natural.
The consequences are not imposed by an authority figure, they occur naturally.
Logical Consequences Examples
- A student runs in the classroom, so the teacher makes them go back to their chair and walk slowly to the door.
- A child throws a ball in the classroom, so the teacher places the ball on a shelf.
- A child refuses to put their toys away before going outside for recess, so the teacher makes the child stay in the room with the teacher’s assistant until they clean-up as instructed.
- A girl in art class purposely spills paint on the table to mix colors, so the teacher makes her clean-up the mess before she can participate in the class.
- Two boys are fighting over a toy on the playground, so the teacher makes them both sit off to the side until they decide to share the toy with each other.
- One child cuts in line to go to lunch, so the teacher makes them go to the back of the line when going to, and returning from lunch.
- Two kids talk to each other instead of doing their classwork, so the teacher seats them at different tables.
- A student uses a rude tone of voice when talking to the teacher, so the teacher refuses to respond until the student uses the appropriate tone and demeanor.
- One girl makes fun of another girl’s hair. The teacher then insists that she apologize and write a short essay on how words can damage others.
- Boys in a high school class make disparaging remarks about the poor, so the teacher has them do research on the causes of poverty.
- A student cheats on a test, so the teacher gives them a failing grade and informs their parents.
- A student repeatedly forgets to bring their homework, so the teacher makes the student do their homework during lunch break.
- A student uses their phone during class, so the teacher confiscates the phone until the end of the day.
- A student is rude to another student, so the teacher requires them to attend counseling sessions to address the behavior.
- A student pushes in line to get on the bus, so the bus driver makes them go to the back of the line.
- A student comes to class unprepared, so the teacher requires them to stay after class and review the material with them.
- A student vandalizes school property, so the teacher makes them clean up and repair the damage.
- A student plagiarizes an assignment, so the teacher gives them a zero on the assignment and explains the importance of academic integrity.
The Three R’s Of Logical Consequences
Dreikurs identified three key principles when administering logical consequences. The primary goal is not to punish but rather to point out more constructive actions.
Teachers and parents should consider the three R’s.
- Reasonable: Consequences should be balanced with the misbehavior. Administering consequences that are too severe will create feelings of unfairness and resentment in the child.
- Respectful: Even in the heat of the moment, it is important for teachers to use a respectful tone of voice when delivering the consequences. The teacher should show empathy and concern. This lets the student understand that the consequence is not punishment, but rather an attempt to help them learn a better way.
- Related: Consequences should be directly connected to the offending act. Therefore, if a child scribbles on the desk, they should not be told to go sit alone in the corner. A more related consequence would be to have the child clean the desk before participating in the art lesson.
Types of Logical Consequences
Teachers often use three kinds of logical consequences when disciplining students. Each type should be applied in conjunction with the three R’s described above. Of course, there can always be slight variations to how each is administered.
- You Break It—You Fix It: This simply means that the student is responsible for fixing any situation or problem they create. For example, if a student knocks over another child’s box of crayons, then they must put them back in the box and apologize.
- Loss of Privilege: When a student breaks one of the classroom rules, then they lose a privilege that involves that rule. For example, if a student plays unsafely on a piece of playground equipment, then they can no longer play on that item for the rest of recess.
Take a Break Time: If a student is about to engage in an emotional outburst or temper tantrum, then they are removed from the situation. They are given an opportunity to calm down by taking a seat away from the aggravating situation until they regain composure.
1. Soheili et al. (2015)
Children spend an incredible amount of time in the classroom with teachers. Therefore, the philosophy and disciplinary techniques that teachers implement can have a substantial impact on children’s academic achievement.
According to Pianta (1999), “Relationships with teachers are an essential part of the classroom experience for all children and a potential resource for improving developmental outcomes” (p. 21).
Soheili et al. (2015) trained 15 Iranian teachers in Adlerian-Dreikursian classroom management techniques during 10 two-hour sessions.
Another 15 teachers did not receive any training.
Pretest and posttest measures of students’ perceptions of the classroom environment and end of term grades were collected.
The results revealed that “…the Adler-Dreikurs approach had positive effects on students’ satisfaction with the classroom environment, their relationships with teachers, and their graded academic attainments” (p. 451).
2. Robichaurd et al. (2020)
When a child’s efforts to do something are blocked, it can lead to feelings of anger and resentment. Implementing disciplinary action, no matter how justified, can also lead to similar emotions directed at the disciplinary agent.
Robichaurd et al. (2020) investigated the types of emotional reactions students might feel when confronted with various disciplinary techniques.
Over 200 students ages 9-12 years old were presented with comic strips that portrayed mother-child interactions in a rule-breaking situation. Each comic strip described a different disciplinary strategy, one of which was the use of logical consequences.
After reading each scenario, the participants indicated their anticipated emotional reactions and acceptability of the disciplinary strategy on a questionnaire.
Results showed that:
“…children believed that mild punishments would elicit significantly more anger, and less empathy than logical consequences.” Sophisticated data analyses also “…suggested that logical consequences were considered more acceptable than mild punishments…” (p. 1519).
3. Dreikurs and Stolz (1991)
According to Dreikurs, children usually misbehave as a result of mistaken goals. Children have a fundamental need to belong, but when that is not met, they misbehave.
Dreikurs and Stolz (1991) argue:
“If we want to help a child change his direction, we must understand what makes him move” (Dreikurs & Stolz, 1991, p. 13).
The child pursues 4 mistaken goals to feel a sense of belonging:
- Attention: Children need and desire attention. If this need is not met, then they will act-out in a manner to receive it. Sometimes that is by displaying positive behavior, and sometimes it involves being disruptive.
- Misguided Power: If a child’s usual attention-seeking behavior is ineffective, then they will engage in a power struggle with the adult. This means they will be stubborn, refuse to following directions, or act in a hostile manner.
- Revenge: Unable to win a power struggle can lead to the child seeking revenge on the adult or others. They feel hurt, so they try to inflict harm on others in response. That can take a psychological or physical form.
- Displaying Inadequacy: When earlier attempts of attaining attention have failed, they may simply give up. The child will internalize feelings of inadequacy and display hopelessness.
Logical consequences are rules set by authority figures such as parents or teachers. The rules are stated in a way which clearly defines a connection between unwanted behavior and discipline.
However, according to Dreikurs, by “discipline” we do not mean punishment. Discipline takes the form of providing constructive solutions to misbehavior that do not make the child feel undervalued or unwanted.
It is important that teachers and parents administer reasonable consequences with a respectful tone, and related to the initial infraction.
Although applying consequences is necessary, it is also essential that caregivers understand the root cause of a child’s misbehavior. When children feel their needs are not met, they pursue those needs through misbehavior.
Dreikurs, R. (1987). Children: The challenge. New York: Dutton.
Dreikurs, R. C., & Grey, L. (1968). Logical consequences: A new approach to discipline. Meredith Press.
Dreikurs, R., & Stolz, V. (1991). Children: The challenge: The classic work on improving parent-child relations–intelligent, humane, and eminently practical. Penguin.
Malmgren, K. W., Trezek, B. J., & Paul, P. V. (2005). Models of classroom management as applied to the secondary classroom. The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 79(1), 36-39.
Pianta, R. C. (1999). Enhancing relationships between children and teachers. American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/10314-000
Robichaud, J. M., Lessard, J., Labelle, L., & Mageau, G. A. (2020). The role of logical consequences and autonomy support in children’s anticipated reactions of anger and empathy. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 29, 1511-1524.
Soheili, F., Alizadeh, H., Murphy, J. M., Bajestani, H. S., & Ferguson, E. D. (2015). Teachers as leaders: The impact of Adler-Dreikurs classroom management techniques on students’ perceptions of the classroom environment and on academic achievement. The Journal of Individual Psychology, 71(4), 440-461.