Consequences are one of the most effective strategies for helping children to respond appropriately and to change inappropriate behaviors. Using consequences helps to avoid the need to yell, threaten or explode! Consequences when used consistently over time change behaviors and provide the opportunity for children to practice responsible decision making, intrinsic motivation and making appropriate choices that are good for all. Consequences assist the child to identify and understand the result of their action and to have an opportunity to make a better decision or choice next time. Consequences generally lead to less resentment from the child than when punishment is used as discipline.
How Does Using Consequences Differ to Punishment as Discipline?
Consequences may look similar or sound similar to punishment but differ from punishment in terms of rationale and purpose.
Punishment is about imposing some form of deprivation because a behaviour has occurred that is deemed inappropriate. Often the punishment will have little or nothing to do with the actual event or misbehaviour.
For example, a child may refuse to turn off the television and the punishment that is given is that the child has to go to bed early.
Punishment is a strategy that simply is controlled by a more "powerful other" (i.e. the adult) and the nature of the punishment may or may not relate to the "crime" (i.e. inappropriate behavior).
Punishment is a strategy that reinforces extrinsic motivation and can often in the longer term lead to resentment or fear in the child, or lead to behaviours that are motivated simply to avoid being punished and not because the child understands and is able to adopt more acceptable behaviours.
Consequences therefore seek to help a child to learn a number of key things about taking responsibility for their own behaviours.
Key points about using consequences as a strategy for disciplining children:
When setting a consequence before a misbehavior has occurred, try to provide a clear indication of what it is that needs to be done and what the choices involve as well as the consequence.
For example: "Remember to turn the TV off at the end of this show. If you choose not to turn the TV off and I have to turn it off then we won't have the TV on tomorrow".
When giving a consequence after an incident, try to deliver it as follows:
For example: "I can see you have thrown the ball through the window. You will need to come in with the broom and sweep it up and part of your pocket money will have to go toward payment".
Consequences are most effective and easy for the parent to implement when parents have a list or idea of the sorts of consequences they may be able to implement in certain situations.