Think You Give Consequences Correctly? Read This.


If you are a mom or dad of multiple children, you may already know this; even if you don’t, you may have noticed it in your nieces, nephews, or your friends’ kids…

There is no parenting tip blueprint showing how to give effective rewards or consequences.

Every child needs his own individual and personalized plan to incentivize him, behave in a certain way, or do what you say. So, what gives?

“The Gift of Failure” by Jessica Lahey inspired me to write this post.

I want to begin with the topic of Positive Consequences. This book has really got me thinking about how each child is motivated differently. And so, as parents, we have to do our due diligence in learning about how we can utilize different parenting tips to effectively personalize positive and negative consequences to each individual child versus just trying to make our kids do what we want them to do. Jessica writes,

Just about anything humans perceive as controlling is detrimental to long-term motivation, and therefore, learning.

We really have to understand that one type of consequence may work for one child, while it ultimately backfires on his or her sister or brother. Before we begin, I’d like to set the foundations with parenting tips on what positive and negative consequences are for raising well-adjusted kids.

Parenting Tips on Positive Consequences

First things first, a positive consequence shouldn’t be viewed as a bribe to motivate your children’s actions and behaviors. Before you implement your perfect strategy to reward your child’s behaviors and actions, it’s important to understand that your rewarding system has to be specific to your child’s preferences, personality, and what fulfills them.

Here are some parenting tips for creating a plan that is the right fit for your son or daughter.

  • Give your child the freedom of having opinions – Just because it may seem like a new Lego set may be an excellent positive consequence for your kid, it doesn’t mean that your child will see value in receiving that gift.
  • Be clear and specific about your expectations – for your reward system to be effective, you have to make sure that your child clearly understands what (how, when, and why) is expected of them.
  • Observe what gives your child authentic joy – perhaps your son or daughter is not as communicative in what he or she wants as a positive consequence, it may serve your purpose well to see what makes them the most content.

**Steps 5 and 6 of my Six-Step Plan is all about Family Meetings & Consequences.**

Consider the following parenting tips on the 5 most common positive consequences:

  • Some kids just enjoy spending uninterrupted time together with you to share an experience or build memories together to feel loved and fulfilled.
  • Others feel the most fulfilled when you make a gesture to gift them something you remembered them talking about 6 months ago. It doesn’t have to be an expensive toy or anything over the top, it can be as simple as a card or a meaningful keepsake, as long as it was gifted with love.
  • Many kids feel the most seen and heard when their parents communicate how proud they are of them and giving them genuine and authentic praise for their efforts.
  • When you do something intangible for your kids, such as taking time to help them practice for a dance recital, the simple act serves as a reward in itself to your child when you go above and beyond what you will typically do for your kids.

So, positive consequences are not meaningless items or toys. They are a the consequence of making good choices!

Parenting Tips on Negative Consequences

Negative consequences should be handed out to your kids as more of a learning moment than punishment for their misbehavior. Here are some thoughts to keep in mind about consequences:

The consequence should balance the misdemeanor (not match it) – although some misbehaviors may need to be ignored and others you think justify a life sentence, impulsive consequences can actually have a reverse effect on your kids, causing them to misbehave more.

The mindset becomes,

What’s the point, mom (or dad) has grounded me for life anyway. What can be worse?

The key is to keep calm, delay giving a consequence until you’re calm and had time to consider what’s best (younger kids will need it by the end of the day and teens can have a delayed consequence for a month or so) and make sure to take care of yourself so that you don’t burn-out and give a consequence you may regret later.

Say what you mean and mean what you say – if you give a consequence, make sure you follow through with it. This can be so difficult sometimes because it can be a huge inconvenience for you. That’s why waiting is best.

When you’re calm, you may realize that if you take the car from JimBob, he won’t be able to run those errands after school for you. I remember leaving a cart full of groceries at the store and I had to go back later that night to shop for everything all over again. Stay the course! Plan ahead and ask for help when needed.


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