Quick Tips

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Consequences occur immediately after a behavior and can be positive or negative. Positive consequences include things like rewards. They let your child know he has done something you like. Negative consequences include things like ignoring and time-out. They are used to stop misbehaviors and keep them from happening again. Distraction is a strategy that can be used to keep misbehaviors from happening in the first place.

What is distraction?

When children are distracted, their attention is focused on something else so they don’t have an opportunity to misbehave.

  • Example: If your child is whining in the grocery store, you can encourage her to play the “show me” game and have her name or point to everything on the aisle that is the color blue or in the shape of a square.

Positive Consequences

Types of Rewards:
  1. Social Rewards
    • Affection – hugs, kisses, smile, high-five
    • Praise – tell your child what you liked; “You were a great helper during clean-up today!”
    • Attention and Activities
  2. Material Rewards
    • Toys, candy, or other material things your child likes or really enjoys.
    • Material rewards should be used in combination with social rewards.
Steps for Developing and Using a Reward System:
  1. Identify and clearly define the behavior or what it is you want your child to do.
  2. Decide on the reward your child will receive.
  3. Create a chart and place it somewhere your child can see it.
    • Sticker charts are most commonly used.
  4. Explain the reward system to your child.
  5. Use the reward system.
  6. Slowly change the selected behavior or phase out the reward system.
If the reward system isn’t working, try the following:
  • Make sure your expectations are realistic
  • Make sure the behavior is clear to your child
  • Make sure the reward is something your child is interested in earning

Negative Consequences/Discipline

What is ignoring?
  • Ignoring occurs when parents take away their attention. They make no physical, verbal, or eye contact with the child.
  • Ignoring works when misbehaviors are done to get the parent’s attention.
  • Commit to ignoring the behavior even when it gets worse because that will likely happen. Ignore the misbehavior every time it occurs.
  • Example: Your child asks you for something at the store, and you say “no.” Your child continues to whine and ask for the item while you’re in line. You ignore your child’s whining and don’t give any attention. You also don’t give in and buy your child what he wants.
What is delay of a privilege?
  • Delay of a privilege means that your child has to wait to get something he wants. Often this means that your child will need to do another task or chore before she is allowed to do/get something she likes.
  • Example: You might tell your child, “After you make your bed, you can go outside and play.”
What are natural consequences?
  • Natural consequences are the consequences that occur because of what we do. You let natural consequences happen, and your child often does not like the outcome.
  • Example: Your child keeps banging her toy against the table, even after you’ve told her to stop. Her toy breaks.
What are common sense consequences?
  • Common sense consequences are also called logical consequences. They are directly related to and logically follow the misbehavior.
  • Example: Your child keeps throwing his toy. You take the toy away.

Steps for Using Consequences

  1. Identify the misbehavior. What is your child doing you want to stop?
  2. Give a warning.
  3. Give a consequence.
  4. Tell them why.
  5. Go back to positive communication.
Keep in mind:
  • Consequences should not be excessive. Young children have short attention spans so taking away a toy for a week isn’t going to have the effect you would like. For younger kids, taking away toys or activities for shorter periods of time is more effective.
  • Prepare yourself for an increase in misbehavior when you start ignoring. If you stay consistent with your ignoring, you will see a decrease in the misbehavior over time.
  • Reward systems do not work immediately to change a child’s behavior. It takes time for them to work.


Page last reviewed: October 2, 2017