Natural Consequences in the Classroom: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Behavior management can be one of the biggest challenges classroom teachers face. This lesson helps you understand what it means to work with natural consequences in the classroom setting.

Why Natural Consequences?

Ms. Davis is really struggling. It is only her second year teaching third grade, and she just cannot get a handle on classroom management. Individual students act up on what seems like a regular basis, and as a group, her class just does not seem to follow rules or expectations. Ms. Davis knows that she has to do something not simply to manage her students' behavior, but to help them understand why their behavior matters.

After doing a lot of research, Ms. Davis begins to see that many behavior management programs reward rule following and punish misbehavior. Though she sees how this could be effective, she really wants a more organic approach--one that helps her students understand what happens in the real world when people act oppositional or disrespectful. This is why Ms. Davis is drawn to the concept of natural consequences.

What Is a Natural Consequence?

Put simply, a natural consequence is something that occurs as a logical, reasonable outgrowth of a particular behavior. Natural consequences are different from punishments. Punishments are oriented toward penalizing students who act out in an effort to train them not to repeat their misbehavior. By contrast, natural consequences are not necessarily penalties. Rather, they are pedagogically oriented. Their goal is to help students learn that their behavior has an impact on themselves, others, and their environments.

Ms. Davis shows her class an example of how natural consequences are different from punishments. She explains that if Nate hits Ben, she could punish him by sending him to time out or call his parents. However, the natural consequence would be that Ben gets angry at Nate and refuses to spend time with him later.

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