Natural consequences are not punishments

My approach to parenting encourages the use of natural consequences rather than punishment however sometimes it can be hard to distinguish between the two so here is an example of each.

"If you don't pack up your toys there will be no swimming tomorrow" is a punishment and not a consequence. 

A natural consequence looks like this: 

It's bath-time, you have been concerned about your child standing up and jumping about in the bath so have decided that when in the bath the child must sit.

How then to implement this using a natural consequences approach?

As you are getting your child ready for the bath state clearly that when in the bath the child must sit. 

Once that direction has been given what happens if they continue to stand?

Using natural consequences, the child if not sitting, gets out. 

So let's look in a little more details as to how a natural consequence might work in this practical example.

Before the child gets into the bath you explain that they must sit. For example, "sweetheart when you get into the bath you must sit down (as it's slippery and therefore dangerous...)" make eye contact and touch the child gently ensuring that you are connecting and engaging with the child.

Put the child into the bath and if they are standing wait a few moments and then say " remember what I said about sitting down?  Would you like me to help you sit down or can you sit down all by yourself?"

Again wait a moment for the child to respond, if nothing happens ask , "have you decided to get out now?" If they continue to stand remove them from the bath. Do it gently and kindly.

Here is where tone is really, really important, do not admonish your child, merely acknowledge their decision. "OK you decided to have a very short bath tonight so let's get you dried and dressed in your pyjamas so we can choose a story (or whatever is your routine)"

You are not punishing the child you are accepting their decision.

If the child screams and wants to get back into the bath you can on night one or two as they are learning the new routine pleasantly say something like ..."Oh you would like to sit down in the bath, let's try that shall we?"  This only applies on night one and two (at most).

On subsequent nights do not give a 'chance' as this will just become the established routine just say pleasantly "oh bath time is finished tonight,  you can decide tomorrow if you want to sit and play in the bath"… then move on quickly to the next part of your evening routine. 

Don't go on about it, don't explain it all over again, move on - all the while keeping a light pleasant tone.

The next evening start anew, simply state "sweetheart remember what we talked about, when you get into the bath you must sit down (as it's slippery and therefore dangerous...)" again make eye contact and touch the child gently. No reference to not sitting or consequences. Again you can say something like 'shall I help you sit down or can you sit all  by yourself?" Wait a moment for the child to comply. If the child continues to stand again take them out and move on, just remarking gently that you see they've chosen to have a very short bath.

No repeated warnings, no threats or admonishment just respect for the choice the child makes within the clear boundaries you have provided.

Once you state clearly that to be in the bath the child must sit, the natural consequence is that the child if not sitting, gets out.