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How to Reinforce Consequences

Most parents turn to consequences when their children act in undesirable ways. While consequences are a natural part of action, there can be some discrepancy as to how to properly discipline children.  Have no fear, there is a proper way to promote positive behavior in children and penalize the undesired behavior where the child can learn and grow from the experience. 

A good rule of thumb is that it is preferable to have the consequences reflect the action, if safe and possible. This is a logistical consequence.

Say, for example, your teenager sneaks out of the house, steals your car and returns past curfew. You are furious! You decide they no longer get the privilege of having their cell phone, weekend plans, and your Netflix account login. 

Now, of course, most teenagers will not respond positively to that response (which is one of the points of consequences), but there is no link between the action and result. Instead, possibly earlier curfew, loss of car privileges for a week and constantly having to update their whereabouts. When the consequences connects to the behavior there is a lesson that is taught

Alternately, there are natural consequences. These occur without any reinforcement. For example, a child does not complete their homework, they fail the assignment.

In each situation, it is important that the child is able to recognize that their actions ultimately determine the response they will receive.

Consequences should be altered to
meet the child’s age and developmental status

For children who are below grade level, they might have a hard time understanding the consequences described above. In this case, some ideas can look like these listed:

Toddler: time out (1 minute for each year old). They will have a harder time understanding pairing actions with logistical or natural consequences, so in these cases, this helps them to link action with undesirable.

Preschool: same as a toddler, can add in the removal of privilege (toy) for a short time period. They are not at the age to be motivated by future events.

Ultimately, when choosing a consequence, aim to be intentional with your decisions and communicative on your decision making process. The goal of punishment is to stop that action from reoccurring, explaining WHY the action is not desired and the intention behind the punishment creates an environment for learning and growing in a healthy and respectful way.

To schedule, a parenting consult. Contact me at 312.685.1882

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