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Using Consequences

It can be hard helping kids get the hang of behavioural boundaries. Luckily, neither you nor your kids are alone in figuring out what might help!

Kid refusing to hand phone over

Rules and boundary setting are natural parts of life

Kids usually need some extra support in learning what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.

Setting clear boundaries and consistently reinforcing them plays a big role in helping our kids learn.

One way to support kids in understanding the outcomes of certain behaviours is the use of ‘consequences’.

Consequences don’t have to be negative

It is important to remember that consequence is just another word for outcome.  It can be either positive or negative.

  • Consequences usually happen after a behaviour
  • Every family has different rules and may have different consequences
  • Before using a consequence, kids usually need to be reminded of what’s appropriate behaviour so they have a chance to correct it
  • Consequences come in handy when kids have not stuck to the rules or boundaries

What consequence to use

The situation, your child’s age and child's needs will help you choose which consequence might be most appropriate for which behaviour.

Here are a few types of consequences to consider:

Natural consequences:

Every action naturally has an outcome. Sometimes letting your kids experience natural consequences is the best learning tool.

For example, if your child won’t eat when they are asked, as a consequence they may feel hungry until the next meal time.

Related/logical consequences:

These are things that you, the parent, will need to do and are related to the behaviour you want to change.

For example, if your child ignores your request to stop running and then knocks something over you may ask them to clean it up as a consequence.

Unrelated consequences:

These give kids an opportunity to think about what they’ve done. They can include ‘time out’ or ‘loss of privilege’ suitable for their age and in proportion to their behaviour.

For example, if your 8 year old child hits your 6 year old child, you may put them in time out as a consequence.

Tips for using consequences effectively

Here are some things to think about when using consequences:

  • Focus on the behaviour and not the child themselves
  • Be clear and communicate about consequences
  • Be consistent in carrying out consequences
  • Make consequences appropriate to your child’s age
  • Consequences need to be in proportion to the behaviour
  • ‘Harsh’ consequences can feel unfair and lead to resistance

What you can do as a parent

If you have questions about using consequences with your child you may like to check out these sources of support:

  • Talk to a counsellor for emotional support and to discuss strategies
  • Reach out to a friend or family member for advice
  • Contact your GP if your child’s behaviour is persistent or concerning you
  • Try parenting programs like Triple P - Positive Parenting Program

Parentline can help you deal with any parenting challenge

Our counsellors can help explore different parenting strategies that best suit you and your family

This content was last reviewed 14/06/2018

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