When most parents think about the consequences for their children, they usually imagine negative consequences, such as a period of time or the elimination of a video game. While negative consequences are essential for changing a child’s behavior, positive consequences are also effective tools for discipline.
When used together, the positive and negative consequences will change your child’s behavior as long as they are used consistently. Use positive consequences to reinforce good behavior and impose negative consequences to discourage bad behavior.
How the consequences work
Every decision you make has positive or negative consequences. For example, if you go to work, you will be rewarded with a salary. If you stop showing up for work, you are likely to be fired, a negative consequence. Children are no exception.
You can start teaching your children life lessons about your choices at an early age.
You can show them that making good decisions, such as doing things or listening to their instructions, leads to positive consequences. On the contrary, you can show them that bad behavior and poor decisions, such as physical aggression, have negative consequences. The consequences influence future behavior.
Differences between consequences
Parents are often confused with the concept of positive and negative consequences. An easy way to remember the difference is that the positive consequences are more proactive and the negative consequences are more reactive.
In other words, positive consequences are designed to encourage children to repeat good behaviors, while negative consequences are in response to a behavior that you want your child to change.
Although it is important to give your child positive reinforcement to behave the way you want, there are times when you will have to use negative consequences, such as expiration of time and loss of privileges. It is also important to use a combination of positive and negative consequences. Using a single method is not as effective as having a variety of tools in your parents’ arsenal.
The consequences must be consistent to be effective. If your children hit each other five times and give them a negative consequence only three times, they may not realize that this behavior is inappropriate. On the other hand, if your kids know everything aggressive behavior they will result in a negative consequence, they will be more likely not to hit.
The consequences work best when they are immediate.
Waiting until Dad gets home to share a consequence or tell the kids that they will miss a trip to a friend’s house in two weeks will not be as effective as a consequence now. Positive reinforcement should also be immediate. And the younger the child, the more immediate the strengthening should be.
For example, 5-year-olds are less likely to do better if they have to wait a month to earn a reward. But they can respond to smaller, more frequent rewards, which adds to a larger, subsequent reward, such as winning a sticker at the end of each day of good behavior, followed by a trip to the park once they win five stickers.
Ways to give your children consequences that really work
How to use positive consequences
Good behaviors often go unnoticed. But strengthening good things with a positive consequence encourages children to continue good things.
This does not mean that your children deserve a reward every time they help you clean the table. There are many ways to strengthen good behavior. Here are some examples of effective positive consequences: .
- Positive attention : If you talk, play and recognize your children, you can encourage them to continue to do a good job.
- Praise : Say things like «You’re a good help today» or «I really like the way you play so quietly with your blocks.»
- Tangible rewards : Rewards may include daily privileges, such as time to watch TV, or may involve earning new things, such as a trip to the park. Token economy systems They can be very effective ways to reinforce good behavior.
How to use negative consequences
When using negative consequences, make sure that the consequences you choose will discourage your child’s behavior. For example, taking the TV will not be an effective consequence if your teen uses a laptop to watch programs online.
And while some children may miss television, others may not care at all if their television privileges are removed. As a result, the negative consequences must be specific to your child. Here are some examples of negative consequences: .
- Logical consequences : The logical consequences are directly related to the deviation. For example, if your kids make a bad decision about their bike, take the bike from them.
- Ignore If your child exhibits attention-seeking behavior, such as a fit of anger, withdrawal of attention may be the best negative consequence.
- Pause : Putting your children on a short break could discourage them from behaving again.
- Responsibility Additional: Assigning additional tasks can be an effective consequence.
Avoid rewarding bad behavior
Sometimes parents inadvertently reinforce negative behavior. Unfortunately, this can make behavioral problems worse. For example, every time you beg a pretentious eater to «try another bite» or tell your child to «stop complaining,» you can encourage them to continue those behaviors.
Attention, even when negative, can be a strong reinforcer.
Consequently, you should praise good behavior and ignore bad behavior lightly. And when your child breaks the rules, he continues with a negative consequence.
A word from Verywell
When implementing consequences, it is important to be calm and consistent, especially if you use negative consequences. Use a neutral tone and try not to do it yourself. Explain your child’s consequences and why it is used. Talk about your child’s rules and behavior.
The goal is for children to learn to change their behavior when faced with the situation again. In the meantime, look for opportunities to surprise your children by doing something good, and then reinforce this with positive consequences. By implementing both strategies, you will discover that your child’s discipline is not as difficult as you once imagined.