6 Ways to Make Consequences More Effective

Address Behavior Problems Effectively and Efficiently

Whether you've put your child in time-out three times in one day, or he just laughed when you took away his privileges, most parents feel like their consequences aren't effective at one time or another.  If your child's behavior isn't changing, you may need to make some changes to your discipline.

Here are six ways to make your consequences more effective:

Be Consistent with Your Consequences

These strategies will ensure your child's consequences are effective.
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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 only two out of every three times that he hits his brother, he won't learn.  Give your child a negative consequence each and every time he breaks a rule.

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 your undivided attention each. 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.

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 are receiving a consequence. 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. Logical consequences are a great way to ensure that the consequence fits with the misbehavior.

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  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 to help your child learn new skills.

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