Not all consequences are created equal. Some are an excellent way to create structure and help kids understand the difference between acceptable behaviours and unacceptable behaviours while others have the potential to do more harm than good. As a parent having a strong understanding of how to intelligently and consistently use consequences can make all the difference.


Giving negative attention: Children value attention from the important adults in their life so much that any attention  — positive or negative — is better than none. Negative attention, such as raising your voice or spanking — actually increases bad behaviour over time. Also, responding to behaviours with criticism or yelling adversely affects children’s self-esteem.

Delayed consequences: The most effective consequences are immediate. Every moment that passes after a behaviour, your child is less likely to link her behaviour to the consequence. It becomes punishing for the sake of punishing, and it’s much less likely to actually change the behaviour.

Disproportionate consequences: Parents understandably get very frustrated. At times, they may be so frustrated that they overreact. A huge consequence can be demoralizing for children and they may give up even trying to behave.

Positive consequences: When a child dawdles instead of putting on his shoes or picking up his blocks and, in frustration, you do it for him, you’re increasing the likelihood that he will dawdle again next time.

The Consequence is enough

Consequences for Kids

When a problem repeats every single day, consequences aren’t going to help your child learn to do better. Solving the problem will. Solutions help your child move forward. 

Reframing situations from “defiance” to “normal – kid stuff” can help keep you calmer. Try to keep in mind:

– It’s not personal.
– It’s not manipulation.
– Behavior is communication.
– All behavior is purposeful.
– Sometimes behavior is mistaken, and still purposeful.
– Parents are meant to help children make better choices.
– Your child needs guidance and connection.

Relating sounds like
“That games seems like so much fun, can you find a good stopping place. It’s time to set the table. You can tell me about the game while setting the table. ”

“Look at all these lego cars and ships you built. Awesome stuff. It’s clean up time. How about you tell me about your creations while putting them up on the self?”

“I bet you wish you could have another piece of chocolate. I wish I could too. And it’s close to dinner time. Let’s save these for tomorrow. We can have it for snack together.”

“You called me stupid. You must be so upset with me. I care about you. Let’s talk about what is going on.”


Consequences that are more effective begin with generous attention to the behaviours you want to encourage.

Positive attention for positive behaviours: Giving your child positive reinforcement for being good helps maintain the ongoing good behaviour. Positive attention enhances the quality of the relationship, improves self-esteem, and feels good for everyone involved. Positive attention to brave behaviour can also help attenuate anxiety, and help kids become more receptive to instructions and limit-setting.

Ignoring actively: This should used ONLY with minor misbehaviours — NOT aggression and NOT very destructive behaviour. Active ignoring involves the deliberate withdrawal of attention when a child starts to misbehave — as you ignore, you wait for positive behaviour to resume. You want to give positive attention as soon as the desired behaviour starts. By withholding your attention until you get positive behaviour you are teaching your child what behaviour gets you to engage.

Reward menus: Rewards are a tangible way to give children positive feedback for desired behaviours. A reward is something a child earns, an acknowledgement that she’s doing something that’s difficult for her. Rewards are most effective as motivators when the child can choose from a variety of things: extra time on the iPad, a special treat, etc. This offers the child agency and reduces the possibility of a reward losing its appeal over time. Rewards should be linked to specific behaviours and always delivered consistently.

  • Be clear: Establish which behaviours will result in time outs. When a child exhibits that behaviour, make sure the corresponding time out is relatively brief and immediately follows a negative behaviour.
  • Be consistent: Randomly administering time outs when you’re feeling frustrated undermines the system and makes it harder for the child to connect behaviours with consequences.
  • Set rules and follow them: During a time out, there should be no talking to the child until you are ending the time out. Time out should end only once the child has been calm and quiet briefly so they learn to associate the end of time out with this desired behaviour.
  • Return to the task: If time out was issued for not complying with a task, once it ends the child should be instructed to complete the original task. This way, kids won’t begin to see time outs as an escape strategy.

Using Discipline and Consequences
(click video to watch)

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