How to Choose Meaningful Consequences for Your Child

By Marcia Hall

Parenting is never easy, and choosing a consequence for your child’s negative actions can be one of the most difficult tasks.  However, the importance of choosing the best and most appropriate discipline is vital to your child being self-motivated to maintain acceptable behavior.  There are three different types of consequences you can choose for your child.

Natural Consequences. These are normal outcomes to imperfect behavior. For example, if your child does not put away his baseball glove, you stop yourself from running out to get that glove before it gets wet from rain or dew.  Instead, you allow the glove to get wet and allow him to play with a wet glove.  You avoid fixing the problem he has because he did not take care of his belongings. In order to be successful at this type of discipline, you will need to be strong in these situations and resist the temptation to rescue your child from the negative consequences of his actions or lack of actions.

Natural consequences can be useful when a child is forgetful in some way.  It does not always work if your child is willfully disobeying you.  This type of discipline will help your child into his adult years because it takes you out of the equation all together and helps your child be self-motivated to work toward positive behavior.

Logical Consequences.  These are practical penalties to noncompliant behavior.  For example, if your child refuses to put away his toys and you are forced to do it for him, you put the toys left out in a box and require him to help you in some way to earn that toy back.  Just like natural consequences, you will need to be strong and not give in to get results.

Logical consequences should be your default mode as a parent.  It is by far the most effective way to correct behaviors in your child because it helps your child remember the lesson learned by connecting that negative behavior to a negative result in his brain. Logical consequences should always be framed as a choice.  Your child has the choice to behave in an inappropriate way and receive the consequence for that action.  But he can also choose the appropriate action and not suffer any consequence.

These consequences are more difficult for parents to promote because in the heat of the moment it can be very difficult to come up with a consequence that in some way matches the action.  However, the more it is done the easier it gets.

Intervention Consequences. These are consequences which by nature will not directly match the action of the child.  For example, if your child is hurting another child or adult it is unsafe and may be unfair to let natural consequences happen.  A logical consequence of separating the child may help, but if this is an ongoing event, some type of intervention consequence may need to occur while you simultaneously search for the root cause of the child’s behavior. Privileges unrelated to the event may need to be revoked or belongings and toys may need to be confiscated for a time.

Intervention consequences should be used only when more logical discipline has proven ineffective.  They should also never be looked at as a permanent solution.  If a child is acting out repeatedly and penalties related to his behavior do not seem to be helping him make better choices, there is always an underlying issue at play.  These types of punishments might help keep your child safe in the short term, but unless you resolve the underlying problem, the behavior will get worse and worse.

Consistency and follow through are always the key to finding consequences that help your child make better choices. When parents are on the same page and continuously set realistic expectation with thoughtful consequences they will find their children will eventually become self-motivated to positive actions.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.

2 thoughts on “How to Choose Meaningful Consequences for Your Child

  1. Thanks for breaking this down – I think in the heat of the moment of trying to discipline it is sometimes challenging to rally up the appropriate response – I find counting to ten before making a choice is also helpful – when the emotions are running high it is hard to be level-headed. One thing to remember is that our children are people whom we love and want to succeed in life and if we approach our discipline from that standpoint – a platform of believing and promoting the good in our children – the appropriate discipline comes more easily. I always think about how my child is learning from my own actions and that is a good guide as well.

  2. Thanks for this good article. Discipline is one of my most requested speaking topics. Consequences are a terrific discipline technique and help a child internalize and “own” behavior.
    For success, I remind parents to allow the consequence to happen – don’t rescue. Also consequences take time to teach, parents must avoid becoming discouraged if a consequence doesn’t change/improve a child’s behavior the first time; some kiddos need to experience a consequence several times.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>