Parenting Hack: Using Consequences

It is inevitable that our children will do things we don’t like and things we don’t want them to do again. On the other hand, they will also do things we do like and things we want them to keep doing.  

Consequences are what happens right after a behaviour occurs.

Consequences not only influence future behaviour but are also a strong predictor of the likelihood of repetitive behaviours.  

The Do’s of Consequences

Do Provide Positive Feedback for Healthy Behaviors

Praising your child for healthy behaviours encourages your child to repeat these behaviours.

Do Use Rewards

Rewards should always be delivered consistently and quickly to ensure the child associates the reward with the positive behaviour. Rewards can be in the form of positive praise, toys or getting more time with a preferred activity.

Do Time outs

Time outs can be very effective when trying to prevent unhealthy behaviours.  When using time- outs, ensure the following:

    • Expectations are clear: Establish which behaviors will result in a time out.
    • Parents are consistent: Parents need to be on the same page in terms of what they are expecting and how they will respond to unhealthy behaviours or it will be harder for the child to connect behaviors with consequences.
    • Set rules and follow them: Following through can be tough but consistency is key.  Follow through EVERYTIME the unhealthy behaviour occurs.
    • Return to the task: If a timeout was issued for not listening to a parent’s request, the child should be instructed to complete the original task after the time out is complete to ensure the child does not associate unhealthy behaviours with escaping from tasks.   

The Dont’s of Consequences

Don’t Give Negative Attention

Raising your voice or spanking your child when they engage in difficult behaviours can result in those behaviors increasing over time.  

Don’t Delay Consequences

The more immediate the consequence, the more powerful it is.

  • Disproportionate Consequences:  A huge consequence for a small error can be demoralizing for children and they may give up even trying to behave.
  • Prevent Escape Behaviours: When a child dawdles when you give them an instruction for instance, when you tell them to put something away and out of frustration you do it for them, you’re increasing the likelihood that they will dawdle again next time.

We know how hard it is to navigate the parenting landscape, and we’d love to help.  If you’d like to talk through these ideas with one of our therapists, please reach out!

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