6 Ways to Give Your Child Consequences That Really Work

How to Address Behavior Problems Effectively and Efficiently

Isn't it frustrating when you put your child in time-out three times in one day and she doesn't seem to care? And how infuriating is it when your child laughs when you take away his privileges?  

Most parents feel like their consequences aren't effective at one time or another. But sometimes, a few simple changes to your discipline techniques is all it takes to change your child's behavior. Here are six ways to make your consequences more effective:


Be Consistent

parent and boy sitting with crossed arms
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Positive and negative consequences only work if they are given consistently. If you only take away your child’s video games two out of every three times he hits his brother, he won't learn. 

Give your child a negative consequence each and every time he breaks a rule. Consistency is the key to helping your child learn that he can't get away with bad behavior.

Make sure you stick to consequences as well. If you take away a privilege for the whole day, don't give in early. Commit to doing what you say and saying what you mean and your child's behavior will change.


Give Plenty of Positive Attention

A healthy relationship with your child is a necessary foundation for discipline. If your child loves and respects you, consequences will be much more effective.

Aim to give your child 15 minutes of positive attention each day. The more you invest in time-in, the less time your child will spend in time-out.


Make Consequences Time Sensitive

Consequences should be time sensitive. Saying, “You’re grounded until I say so,” isn't clear enough. Neither is saying, “You can’t go anywhere until I can trust you again.”

Outline how long the consequence is in effect. Usually, 24 hours is a good amount of time to take something away from a child. So try saying, "You've lost your electronics until this time tomorrow."

There are times when you may want to take away a privilege until your child earns it back. If this is the case, explain exactly what needs to happen for your child to earn it back.

Instead of saying, “You can’t have your phone back until I can trust you,” say, “You can earn your phone back for one hour a night if you get all your homework done.”


Give Immediate Consequences

The best consequences are immediate. Taking away your child’s overnight with Grandma that is planned for next week is not likely to be as effective as taking away his electronics right now.

Immediate consequences ensure kids remember why they got into trouble in the first place. If it’s delayed by a week, they’re more likely to forget what rule they violated.

There may be times, however, that it’s not possible to give immediate consequences. If you find out your child got into trouble on the bus three days ago, the consequence will obviously need to be delayed. Or, if he misbehaves right before he gets on the bus in the morning, you may need to wait until he gets home from school before you can give him a consequence.

When it's not possible to make the consequence immediate, give it to your child as soon as possible. Just make it clear why he's getting in trouble now by reminding him which rule he violated.


Use Consequences as a Teaching Tool

There’s a difference between consequences and punishments. Consequences should be used as a teaching tool and shouldn’t shame or embarrass kids. In fact, those type of punishments make behavior problems worse, not better. 

Logical consequences are a great way to ensure that the consequence fits with the misbehavior. So if your child refuses to turn off his video games, take away his video games. Or, if he rides his bike outside the boundaries, take away his bike. 


Give Consequences Sparingly

Consequences become less effective when they are used too much. Kids who lose all of their privileges for an extended period of time begin to lose motivation to earn it back. Time-out also becomes less effective when it is used multiple times throughout the day.

If your child requires frequent consequences, try switching things up. Use other discipline tools, such as reward systems, praise, and active ignoring

Positive discipline techniques can be instrumental in helping kids turn things around. It motivates them to improve their behavior and can also help improve your relationship along the way. 

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