Natural law is a theory of ethics that says that reasoning and behaviour of human beings depend on those intrinsic values that govern us. It also states that there are universal moral standards that are seen across time periods and societies / communities because these standards form the basis of a society.
Since natural law assumes universalizing rules, it does not account for the fact that different people or different cultures may have perspectives that vary. For instance, something ‘to be fair or just’ if perceived differently, the results will differ.
Natural law claims that humans are born with a certain moral compass that guides behaviours. These inherited rules enable us to distinguish the “rights” from the “wrongs” in life. Under natural law, everyone has the same rights, viz. the right to live and the right to happiness. However, systems may change but its rules do not change and are inherently assigned to everyone.
Imagine a case where a soldier sees a grenade thrown into her barracks. Knowing that she does not have time to defuse it or throw it away, she throws herself on the grenade. It blows up, killing her but saving other soldiers in her barracks. Is this wrong or right?
What about Aquinas? What would he say? [Thomas Aquinas was the greatest of the Scholastic philosophers]. Aquinas says this is morally acceptable given Doctrine of double effect [DDE].
In our example, the action is one of self-defence. This distinction and conclusion is possible because of Aquinas’s Doctrine of Double Effect [DDE] which states that if an act fulfils four conditions then it is morally acceptable. If not, then it is not.
- The first principle is that the act must be a good
- The second principle is that the act must come about before the consequences.
- The third is that the intention must be good.
- The fourth, it must be for serious reasons.
So given that the act meets all four principles, it is in line with the DDE and hence the action is morally acceptable, even though it caused someone to die and hence seems contrary to the primary precept of preserving life.
How is this relevant to us in these times?
In the world of parenting, there is a concept known as the “Law of Natural Consequences.” A natural consequence is anything that happens naturally, with no adult interference. When you stand in the rain, you get wet. When you don’t eat, you get hungry. When you forget your jacket, you get cold.
To elucidate further, It involves parents letting children fail at a task ensuring that there is no danger to the child. If you tell your child to pack a coat on an outing and they choose not to, you let them be uncomfortable at the outing and let them learn from their actions. This principle can also work in the workplace.
When raising children, we often don’t need to administer a disciplinary action in these instances. A consequence will occur naturally and this will lead to a teachable moment.
Natural consequences are a direct result following behaviour 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. The consequences are not imposed by an authority figure, they occur naturally.
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.
To illustrate: HW is not done. So, the teacher makes them do it in class during the lunch recess.
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 him go to the end of the line.
These consequences should be reasonable, related to the incident and respectful. Generally, these are referred to as the RRR consequences.
- Reasonable: Administering consequences that are too severe will have a negative effect in the child.
- Respectful: The teachers should use a respectful tone of voice when delivering the consequences and should show empathy and concern.
- Related: If a child scribbles on the desk, a related consequence would be to have the child clean the desk first.
These are to be applied even to the logical consequences scenario.
- You Break It—You Fix It: If a student spills over another child’s drink the child should apologize and assist in the clean-up process.
- Loss of Privilege: If a student plays roughly with the others on the playground, then they can no longer play for the rest of recess.
- Take a Break Time: Fights and skirmishes are not tolerated. They are given an opportunity to calm down by taking a seat away from the aggravating situation until they regain composure.
While using natural & logical consequences keep the following in perspective:
- Does it need parental intervention: It should not cause harm to the child.
- Offer choices to the child: Would you wear the red dress or the blue one today?
- Use empathy and set limits. Reason out with the child instead of giving into the tantrums.
Although applying consequences is necessary, it is also essential that caregivers understand the root cause of a child’s misbehaviour. When children feel their needs are not met, they pursue those needs through misbehaviour.
18 Logical Consequences Examples by Dave Cornell (PhD) and Peer Reviewed by Chris Drew (PhD) / May 7, 2023