Discipline – Enforcing Consequences

It’s time once again for Heather from Family Volley to share with us some Parenting Tips as part of her “Parenting Tips” here on The Idea Room. I realize that today is a Wednesday and usually Heather’s series runs every other Thursday here on The Idea Room. I had to make a little rearrangement this week so you get her a day early! Here’s Heather in her own words…


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Parenting is hard. Especially when we have to discipline. Our kids will make mistakes, and we will have to enforce consequences. 

Although there isn’t a cookie cutter consequence for every situation or misstep, there are some important guidelines that will really help us as parents.

The most important thing to remember…Don’t EVER, EVER withhold love as a consequence. When a child gets in trouble they will often rush in for a hug and for affection. Don’t refuse them. Give them the hug, show affection and love and then enforce the consequences. 

Other important suggestions…
  • Make it clear before the misbehavior happens, that there are consequences for bad behavior. The time to talk about it is when no one is doing anything wrong. When kids are young, they often don’t know they have done anything wrong until they get in trouble. Set clear consequences if the expectations are not met.
  • Do not use physical force as a response to physical misbehavior. Example, if your child hits you, don’t hit them back. This is especially confusing to small children. A child will process the situation as “You just told me not to hit and then you hit me, I don’t understand”. In the long run it will not teach the right lesson. 
  • After you give a warning to your child, if the behavior doesn’t immediately change, clearly state the consequence and then enforce it. There is no need for you to justify, explain, or negotiate. Enforce the consequences and then explain later when things have calmed down. 
  • Don’t give idol threats. If you say “if you yell at me again you will go to your room,” and they yell at you again, You Better send them to their room. I learned this the hard way with our daughter. After an idol threat, she looked at me and said, …” you said that last time, but you didn’t do it.” Yikes. Learned my lesson that day. Now I make sure to follow through. 
  • Don’t give in. Enforce the consequence. Giving in sends the wrong message. Your kids won’t ever take you seriously if you don’t enforce the consequence. 
  • When appropriate, you can allow your kids to have a say in their punishment. Make sure they are reasonable and adequate. 
  • When trying to establish consequences, first consider the offense. A good place to start is asking yourself, “what would right the wrong?” Then consider “what would teach the correct principle the child needs to learn?”
  • If you like to use time-out, consider the Time-Out Rule: 1 minute in time-out for every year your child is old. (A five year old=5 minutes). Don’t use time-outs for children under 3.
Now that we have some general suggestions, here are three specific things that can be done when you need a consequence. 

1. Loss of Privilege.
Take a minute or two and think about each of your children. What do they value? What means the most to them?

For our son, it is television time.
For our daughter it is playing with friends and running errands with me. 

It is these privileges that are the first to go when they misbehave. 

Just be sure that the privilege you take is something you can control, like toys, cell phone, computer, tv, playing with friends, etc.

The key is to be CONSISTENT!

You can consider using a Privilege Chart.
Take pictures of the things your child can’t live without. Your child looses one privilege starting from least favorite to most favorite when they misbehave or talk back. Realize that their chart will change as they get older. 

2. Natural Consequences, let them take their course.
Most actions have natural consequences that occur. Let these natural consequences teach and don’t feel like you have to “save” your child from the consequence. It is the perfect time to help your child understand that our actions have consequences. When we make good decisions, our consequences are positive. When we make poor decisions, our consequences are negative. 

We experienced this with our son not too long ago. Despite plenty of ability, time to finish, and help, our son wouldn’t focus to finish his homework. He knew that if he didn’t finish by bedtime, that he would have to go to school with it unfinished (he can’t stand not having his homework done.) Our son didn’t believe us. He was certain we would let him stay up as long as it took.  We stood strong and he ended up going to school with unfinished work. He had to suffer the natural consequence of his actions. Boy did it teach him a lesson. The natural consequence did far more to teach him then a consequence we would have set. 

2. Whining Chair, Time away, time out, being sent to another room…call it what you want. 
The lesson to teach when we have to remove our children from the situation is…“if you are going to misbehave, then you can’t be apart until you change your actions.” A child who is not listening, who is yelling, talking back, or treating siblings unkind, needs to be removed from the situation. 

Just remember to stay strong, you don’t have to explain yourself. 

Remember, it comes down to what works with each child. Trail and error will help as you learn to understand each child. As parents, we need to stay calm and collected. We need to be confident and in charge. Above all, we need to be consistent. 

It won’t be perfect every time. A bad day doesn’t mean that all is lost. We will have plenty of opportunities to enforce consequences, we just need to stick with it. 

Remember above all…ALWAYS follow the reprimand with an increase in LOVE, ALWAYS. 

How do you enforce consequences in your home?
What is your leverage? What can’t your child live without?

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  1. says

    Awesome post! I wish parents weren’t so worried about their kids liking them. So many people let their kids get away with stuff based on that. I’ve found with my 3 ages 15, 13 & 10) that setting firm boundaries & having consequences that you follow through with, produce kids who not only respect you but have higher regard for rules in general. Teach them early that there are consequences, but don’t be such a hard-ass that they have no freedom to learn for themselves too!
    ps it’s “idle” in this case, not “idol” :-)

  2. says

    Great post! Every child truly is different and determining proper punishment for each child is a must. I have a 10 1/2 year gap between my children and I know we difinitely used different methods with each. I still need to work on the being “consistent” part though.

    • says

      Shelly, being consistent is a constant battle, but it makes such a big difference. One of the best things we can do as parents is to see our children for who they are. Individuals who are different. Kids are not cookie cutters. Thanks for your great comment.

  3. Alesa Larsen says

    Great post. I disagree with the line not to use time outs for children under two. Sometimes that is precisely what they need. A time out to catch their breath, loose their audience, and be happy again. We have always used time outs on our small children and have found that as soon as they leave the room, they quickly want to come back. So you can talk to them about their behavior. Not that they always understand it, but the realize that being naughty will not be tolerated. Time outs at that age are often less than one minute, just long enough for them to regain control.
    Loved the part about natural consequences. It is so hard to let those happen sometimes.

    • says

      Thanks for your comment Alesa. Glad to hear time outs work for your little ones. It is not that they are bad for a two year old, they just show to not always be as effective for 1 and 2 year olds. They don’t usually understand enough for the disicpline to make a significant, long term difference. Sounds like you have found what is best for your family and that is most important. :)

  4. Katie says

    Great article! I just have one question…why is it not good to put a two year old in a time out? What do u do when they don’t listen to a single word u say! I don’t know what else to do. He is CONSTANTLY testing us! Help!

  5. says

    This was just what I needed to hear today. We are having a hard time with my daughter— she is very strong-willed little girl. Time outs just put her into meltdown mode, so we started using a calming jar to help her calm down while she is in it. Parenting is hard, but articles like this bring me a little bit of clarity. Thanks!

    PS: you can make your own calming jar really easily! http://familysponge.com/parenting/artkids-calm-down-jar/

  6. says

    Number one problem with discipline is parents not following through. This is easy to fall into when here you are, exhausted, drained and out of resources! So saying “nevermind” or looking for the easy route is often the trap we fall into, even if initially you meant to follow through.

    It only takes but afew failed follow through for a child to know he or she cant take you seriously.

    • says

      Iaviera, you are so right. It only takes one or two times for our kids to know they can take advantage. It is hard to follow through, but we have to be strong and “stick with it” It might be hard in the moment, but it will make the future so much easier.

  7. Deanna says

    Thank you for these tips. I have been reading the book Boundaries for kids, it covers some of these same issues. Sticking to the threat you have given your child is sometimes the hardest, but helps them learn that they need to listen of their is a consequence.
    Great post!

  8. says

    This is such a great post. I have such a hard time following through with the consequences or giving them too many chances. I’m definitely going to use these tips.


  9. says

    Hi Lex, so glad the tips are helpful. I too have been guilty of giving too many chances. :( It gets me in trouble every time. So important to give consequences, stick to them and follow through.

  10. Katie says

    1. I love the part about proactively teaching and setting expectations before a melt-down happens. It doesn’t always work, but it can avert many problems. For example, sitting a child down before church and explaining what behavior is/is not appropriate at church and what the consequence will be for each of those actions.

    2. I’ve learned over the years to identify the problem behind misbehavior. Is she tired? Is he hungry? Did she have a hard day at school? Has he been waiting for you to help him or talk to him? Getting to the root of the problem can often be the best solution.

    3. POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT cannot be overstated. It can be as simple as noticing and complimenting/smiling at positive behavior or as complex as marbles in a jar rewarded with a mommy store or stickers on an ‘extra mile’ chart rewarded with a daddy date. Focus on the GOOD in the child and they will generally want to be good.

    I love this approach: http://education.byu.edu/youcandothis/
    Thanks for your insights!

  11. Meghann says

    Any tips for whining? We discipline for the tantrums and such, but my 3 year old seems to speak in this constant whine for even the smallest thing and it quickly escalates into a tantrum. How do we curb the whining before it escalates?

  12. Melody says

    Meghann, my sister and her husband absolutely refuse to react to whining. If their 2 year old son starts to whine, they will remind him, we will not respond to whining. But for the most part he will catch himself and regulate the behavior. My kids are much older and I wish I had known this when they were younger, but it’s nice to apply it to them now, although it is almost never needed. Hope this helps!


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