List of Consequences for Bad Behavior

How to choose what to put on your consequences list

sad girl at table with timer - time out child discipline
Sitting quietly in time out can be a consequence of bad behavior.. Luc Beziat/Cultura RM Exclusive/Luc Beziat/Getty Images

School-age kids love getting rewards--and they hate losing. That's why something as simple as stickers can be such powerful tools in steering kids away from behavior problems and toward making better choices. Similarly, knowing that there are consequences for bad behavior--things that they do not want, like losing TV or video game time--can be a powerful child discipline tool. Some things to keep in mind as you create your consequences list:

  • Remember to go with the flow when it comes to what goes on your consequences list. What works at one time might not work down the line (kids often change their minds about an activity or toy, loving something they used to hate and vice versa). And there is no one definitive consequences list that works for all kids--each child is very different with different interests and preferences. Bottom line: You know your child best--think about what may motivate him as you make your list of consequences or rewards.
  • Remember to balance consequences with incentives, or rewards. Just as there should be consequences for bad behavior, there should also be a list of rewards for good or improved behavior. An important part of discipline is teaching kids how to regulate themselves, and motivators can help kids want to reach those goals. For example, you won't always be there to remind him not to fight with his brother instead of trying to work out a conflict with him calmly; the key is that he remembers to control his temper and express himself with words in a respectful way. So if he learns how to change his behavior and, say, fight less with his brother, you can work from a list of rewards, such as additional video game time or extra time for play dates with friends.
  • Don't just rely on consequences. The best way is to think about child discipline is to imagine yourself using as using many different methods at once to achieve the ultimate goal: Teaching your child to make better choices and behave differently. So in addition to consequences, remember that you will use other tools such as time outs, talking to your child firmly but calmly, and setting good examples for your child to follow.
  • Don't make the consequence too long. Just like time outs shouldn't be too long for school-age kids, the period during which a consequence takes effect shouldn't be more than two or three days, depending on the seriousness of the offense.
  • Don't double up on consequences. Taking away all screen time AND all play time with friends is probably overkill and won't teach your child any faster. Unless your child does something that is very serious--deliberately and continuously hurting a sibling or being repeatedly disrespectful to you--give her one consequence at a time.
  • Wipe the slate clean and star over. Once your child does the time for his crime, reset everything so that he can start fresh. Let him know that he should remember what happened and why, and that you won't hesitate to give him another consequence if he misbehaves again. But reassure him that you are confident that he'll remember what better choices to make the next time, and let him know that you consider that past deed over and done.

    What to Put on a Consequences List

    Some examples of things you might want to include on a consequences list include:

    • No play dates with friends. School-age kids are developing more social skills, and are increasingly spending more time being with peers and making friends. They love play dates, and hate the idea of anything cutting down the amount of time they have to spend with friends hanging out, playing video games, or just running around outside.
    • No screen time. Reducing screen time is something we should all be doing (parents and kids alike). From phubbing (staring at phone screens instead of fully being with the people we love) to binge-watching TV to compulsively checking email or social media posts, both adults and kids need to cut down the amount of time we spend staring at devices. But screen time is part of our lives, and most kids can balance TV, video games, and phone time with non-screen time with parents' help. But being cut off completely? That would be a serious consequence that no school-age kid would want, and a powerful and effective item indeed on a consequences list for kids.
    • Extra chores. Doing chores should be part of every child's routine. Chores teach kids responsibility and give them a sense of accomplishment, among other benefits. But having to do extra chores as a consequence of bad behavior? No child wants that, thus making this consequence a useful tool.
    • Loss of privilege. What that privilege is will depend on your family. Your child may lose his turn to choose what your family will have for dinner, or what board game you will play on family game night. Or she may lose her turn to choose what movie you will watch together on family movie night. Whatever the privilege is, school-age kids hate losing their turn.
    • No access to a favorite toy or activity. Your child may love Legos or Minecraft or making Rainbow Loom bracelets. The threat of having the thing he or she loves most right now in time out can be a power motivator to steer your child toward good behavior.

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