I would argue that this example is a bit fuzzy, too. A parent would probably have made a purposeful decision to not go out and collect the toys so they wouldn't get rained on or stolen. For me, because the parent manipulates a situation, then it ceases to be a simple, natural consequence. I'd say more appropriately that a child who keeps dropping a teddy bear for the parent to pick up finally drops it off a bridge. Irretrievable. That's a natural consequence, unmanipulated by the parent.
The more I read this thread, the more I realize that I do think punishment (if that's the term I have to use) is sometimes necessary. I don't use physical punishment or shame, but I do think it is necessary to teach my DS that sometimes bad things will happen if one does certain things. In the teddy bear example above, I just think of how heart broken my DS would be if he dropped one of his beloved stuffed animals off a bridge and it couldn't be retrieved. And how unfair would that be if he had repeatedly dropped his stuffed animal and I had always picked it up for him. He would have had no warning that there might be negative consequences to his behavior, and now it is too late for him to learn that lesson because teddy is gone. I would much, much prefer the following scenario-- he drops teddy (probably for the umpteenth time), I pick it up, hand it back to him, and tell him that if he keeps dropping Teddy I will have to put Teddy away to protect him from getting lost or hurt. He then drops Teddy again and I put Teddy away. Yes, my son would be sad. Yes, there would probably be tears. Yes, it was a parentally manipulated situation. But his sadness would be temporary. I could tell him that when we were in a safer situation, or when he felt ready to hold onto Teddy, Teddy could come back. And if at some point he still did drop Teddy off a bridge, at least he wouldn't have been completely blindsided -- he would have already been exposed to the idea that his actions had consequences. If that is punishment, then I guess I think punishment is not only necessary, but really the kinder, fairer, more respectful way to treat my son. He's 3. I can't expect him to know the negative consequences that are out there if I don't teach him about them. I can try to teach them in a gentle way. And of course this is without even touching on the really horrible consequences, like the consequences of running out into the street, or running up and petting a strange dog without first asking the owner if the dog wants to be petted. Of course I would love to keep my dear boy from experiencing any sorrow, but if a little, temporary sorrow is going to keep him from experiencing much worse sorrow or pain, then that's part of my job.