Natural, logical, and created consequences for kids are all effective ways to adjust behavior and reinforce child training. Being prepared to administer consequences when the need arises will save on frustration, significantly lessen inconsistency and help to eliminate yelling.
Like most accomplishments, helping your child learn how to make the right choices, is easier when you have a plan. Having a handful of effective consequences for kids in your back pocket is an important part of that plan.
While not every specific consequence will work the same for all children, there is an underlying tone of consequential outcome that is universally true. Humans want more good and less bad. This is no less true for your tiny humans!:)
The 10 effective consequences for kids that I’ll provide below can be widely effective when tweaked just slightly to your child’s individual needs. For the sake of some “ah-ha” moments, I’ll provide some examples for understanding.
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Why Consequences for Kids?
Life is consequential. Every decision we make has a ripple effect, right? Some consequences are significant, while some are minor. This is true of both positive and negative consequences.
For instance, if a man chooses to get behind the wheel of a car after having a few drinks, that choice can prove disastrously consequential for himself, and more importantly, other innocent people.
The other side of the gamut is if I choose not to shower today, nothing catastrophic is going to happen. I may be caught off guard if someone calls and wants to visit, but otherwise, having greasy hair is about the worst consequence I’ll face.
The importance of consequences when raising great kids is to prepare them for the life ahead. Speeding = speeding tickets. Kindness = friendships. Insubordination = unemployment. Obedience = blessing. (Luke 11:28)
10 Examples Consequences for Kids That are Effective
#1. Magic Time-Outs
Ok, so time-outs aren’t really magical, however, when you are trying diligently to train your small child not to whine, or stop him from begging for something, or end a power struggle, they can feel like magic!
BUT… only if done correctly. The book 1, 2, 3 Magic is the only resource I recommend for time-outs. More and more parents are moving away from time-outs. I am convinced it’s because the technique has been watered down and misused for so long.
Correctly carrying out a time-out is the only way to get positive results with the consequence. When done well, time-outs are a grace-filled and very effective consequence for children ages 15-months through 4 years!
Which makes them the perfect go-to consequence for the earliest child training phases. Learn all about how to correctly and effectively use time-outs for your little one here.
#2. Take The Child Away From The Fun
When a child is playing well, playing is the reward. Should a child stop playing well and begin displaying undesirable behavior, it only makes sense that she no longer be rewarded with the play.
Let’s say for example you are playing on the floor with your 2-year-old child and all is going well. He’s happy and you’re both enjoying yourselves.
Until he picks up a small toy and throws it at you. He’s 2… it’s unlikely that he did this out of malice. Nonetheless, it hurt, and throwing toys at people isn’t good behavior.
Allow him one opportunity to understand that he may not throw toys.
Say these words, “You may not throw toys. It hurt mommy when you threw the toy. If you throw the toy again our playtime will be over.” > this is giving him a chance to train FROM a point of understanding.
Should he throw the toy again (which children typically will, as they are learning how the world around them works) pick him up and place him somewhere else, while you put the toys away, and remove the child and yourself from a playtime atmosphere.
Say these words, “Throwing toys is not allowed. Because you threw the toy, playtime is over.” > this is training SO he understands.
Due to his age and cognitive ability, there are no earth-shaking punishments. That’s not necessary. All he needs is basic cause and effect training that builds pathways in his brain allowing him to equate not throwing toys = fun. Throwing toys = fun goes away.
#3. Take The Fun Away From The Child
Much like the previous consequence, this one trains to the understanding of desirable outcome. However, now we are talking about taking the fun away from the child instead of the child away from the fun.
This works better than #2 when you are out and about or at a public location. For instance, if you are at a playdate and your child shows behavior similar to the example in #2, you would instead remove only the toy and tell him similar dialogue as in the above example.
Say these words, “You may not throw toys. Because you threw the toy, you will not be allowed to play with it anymore.” > you are again training SO he understands in this example. The difference here is that you are not allowing him one chance to show obedience because there is another child involved and it’s your responsibility to keep your child from harming another.
Numbers 2 & 3 are the same concept with varying execution.
#4. Don’t Give Him A (metaphorical) Cookie
When I am training my children how to deal with sibling aggrevation I tell them, “Don’t give him a cookie!” I liken this to when you ask a dog to sit and you give him a cookie, so next time you say the word sit, he sits because he wants that cookie. When child A is aggrevating child B, child B can control whether child A continues or stops based on how much interaction she gives.
By denying engagement/interaction you can take significant steps towards squashing bad behavior.
Denying engagement and interaction is what happens when you are walking through the grocery store and your child starts to whine and cry from the shopping cart seat.
What do you do? Well, not much. You have something to accomplish at the grocery store and your child is not the chieftain, so you keep shopping.
Denying engagement works as a consequence because if you DO engage by giving her attention, offering something to calm her down (the cookie) etc, then you’re giving her a positive consequence (aka positive reinforcement) for her behavior.
By removing yourself from engaging with her, you’re letting her know that the shopping trip will go on, you won’t be broken by tantrums, and that she doesn’t run the show.
I’ll let you in on a little secret… if you can get good at this, it’ll likely only happen once or twice in your child’s life! Read here about why following through with this is so difficult!
#5. Set A Timer And Be Done
Let’s say that you are on a shopping trip that is less than necessary. Perhaps your child received a gift card or cash for a birthday and you have ventured out for a toy.
You have set some parameters for the trip, such as how much can be spent, behavioral expectations, and time limits. The best way to enforce these parameters is to make them mandatory.
If you begin to see frustrations over toys that are too expensive, whining or fussing, or disregard of time restraints… pack up and go home.
Some children have a difficult time making decisions. Allowing them more and more and more time to decide does not sharpen their decision-making ability. If necessary, set a timer. When the timer goes off… simply begin walking away. Should your child not cheerfully follow you, pick him up. You are bigger and stronger for a reason.
***This is the very reason all of my children can go anywhere and pick anything within a matter of a few minutes. When we began shopping with them at a young age, I’d set a timer. When the timer went off, we left. End of story.
#6. Positive and Negative Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is an effective child training tool. Remember, humans want more good and less bad. When there is the promise of something good, a child’s motivation sky-rockets!
Set positive reinforcement rewards in advance for desired behaviors. Make good on delivering those rewards when good behavior is shown. Likewise, make good on saying, “Because you chose to disobey mommy in the store, you will not be getting a treat” and following through.
Don’t get stuck in a rut when thinking of rewards. A wide array of things can be used as positive reinforcement.
Staying up an extra 15 minutes past bedtime, reading an additional book before bed, alone time with a parent, a sucker, a short park trip, etc can all be very effective. Once those reinforcements have been used a few times, the notion of losing them due to poor behavior will make an impact.
These types of consequences for kids does far more than correct behavior. It teaches your child responsibility for self. When the positive or negative outcome becomes solely the responsibility of the child she’s 100 steps closer to becoming a great adult!
#7. Loss Of Privilege
In my online parenting course, I teach parents how to customize consequences according to a child’s individual needs. This strategy makes regulating your child’s behavior very effective!
One way to do this well is to use loss of privilege based on what your child considers privilege.
Most things in life are a privilege. We’ve all become quite accustomed to our modern luxuries and kids suffer the most from entitlement. Very little in life comes without being earned, so it’s important to teach children that good things don’t come free.
If your family enjoys television, video games, the occasional ice cream cone, and other luxuries set a guideline in your home that those privileges are only attained through a standard of behavior.
Your child can’t quite understand how hard mom and dad must work in order to provide for him. You can begin to teach him this important lesson by showing him how to “work” within his own ability, by displaying a good attitude, first-time obedience, respect, manners, etc.
#8. Extra Work
Happy and harmonious families work as a team. Each member does his or her part to strengthen and edify for the good of the whole crew.
This is accomplished through encouragement and kindness, as well as chores and housework.
It makes sense that a child who has made the work of one family member more difficult or added additional work due to poor behavior, be expected to do extra work.
These kinds or consequences could be natural or created.
For example, if a child disobeyed a house rule of not taking food into his room, and subsequently spilled the food, he would need to do the extra work of cleaning his room while the rest of the family enjoyed game time.
Or perhaps, after being told not to touch his sister’s special doll, a child decided to touch it anyway and didn’t put it back. A logical created consequence would be that he does his sister’s chores for the evening and miss out on family fun.
Finally, for the last two examples, I’ll dig a little deeper into consequences that teach greater responsibility for self and ownership of actions.
#9. Earn Back Toys
For children who are regularly displaying unwanted behavior, it can be very effective to withhold all toys and allow them to only be earned back one at a time.
I’ve even heard more than one mom say that her own pediatrician recommended this for significant misbehavior. In fact, I recall one mom reaching out to me with concern after her pediatrician told her, “Jenny, go home, get a bunch of big boxes, put everything he enjoys in them, and put them in the garage! Don’t let him have anything until his behavior improves, and then only allow him to earn them back one at a time.”
“Is that really a good idea, Shelley?” She said.
Yes… I believe it is. Although executing this consequences in an effective way requires a little more effort than he laid forth in his few sentences.
We are entitled to nothing and neither are our children. That is the bottom line regarding consequences. Requiring your child to earn his luxuries with good behavior and upholding your family standards will go a long way toward raising great adults!
#10. Earn Back TV and Media
One of the most common mistakes parents make when taking media away as a consequence is that they simply take it “away for a day.”
The child goes without it for a day (or week), then gets it back without much thought.
If media is taken away as a consequence, the consequence is merely waiting it out until the item is returned. That sort of negative consequence proves ineffective long-term. Waiting it out is what the child becomes good at instead of improving good behavior.
Should you decide to take a gaming system, device, or other media privilege away as a consequence, don’t merely give it back. Require the child to earn it back.
For instance, “Joe, you can have your tablet back after you have displayed first-time obedience for ____ days.” The amount of time and earning directly correlates to the reason the child lost the privilege.
Several years ago, one of my child (who shall remain nameless:) behaved poorly during a class at church. Making life more difficult for the precious teachers who give their time to the children, is not-going-to-fly in our family.
He lost his Wii (his prized possession at the time) for an undisclosed amount of time. The understanding was; I had to receive several very good reports from the teachers before I would consider allowing him to play with the system again.
He did and we’ve not had a problem with that since.
The Most Important Step to Making Consequences for Kids Effective!
Judgment is brutal. Humans desire inclusion. All moms want to be accepted and appear as though they have it all together.
Unfortunately, there is a giant misconception about what it takes to have it all together. I don’t know if anyone can ever truly have it all together, however, one vital component to having it all together is to brush off judgment. Read the secret to parenting follow through here.
The most important step you can take to make consequences for kids effective is to follow through. Also known as consistency.
The child who is behaving wonderfully during a shopping trip has likely been through an awful shopping trip at some point before, in which mom put consequence #4 into action and followed through.
The child who always shares during a playdate and answers his mom the first-time with a “Yes Ma’am” has been trained with #2 and #3 consistently.
The mother of those children cared more about the training of her child than she did any possible judgment or whispers of strangers.
Don’t let fear be the reason you don’t implement effective consequences for kids. They need you to show them the way to adulthood and how to successfully navigate the waves of life! And you’re the perfect person for the job!