Giving consequences to your kids will be one of most important yet fragile elements of parenting–because even though consequences are a good thing, there can be some adverse effects if not done correctly. To help you out a little, I’ve compiled a helpful and logical list to give you some healthy discipline ideas for giving consequences; and also information to consider BEFORE you discipline your kids.
Are consequences for kids good or bad?
If done properly, consequences can be one of the most helpful tools for your family to function in a healthy and loving way. Some might say the opposite–that consequences are negative and will harm the emotional or mental health of a child.
But let’s consider the time in a person’s life outside of the home they grow up in. What does living as an adult, in reality, tell you from your own personal experience? That there are consequences for misbehavior, right?
If you get a job, you can’t do whatever you like, or you’ll get fired.
In a relationship, the same thing. You can’t do whatever you want without a consequence for something you did wrong. You learn that owning up to our wrongdoing will foster a healthy and loving environment.
So, where is the best place for your kids to learn these valuable life skills regarding consequences and actions? From you, the parent.
Consequences ARE good. But they can also be damaging when not done healthily or functionally.
When consequences for kids don’t work
When we consider the act of giving a consequence, it’s important we align it with this–discipline to instruct and shepherd, not control.
Adults can sometimes unintentionally use their power or domination to make a child feel like they are not worthy of forgiveness or that what they did should make them feel ashamed.
In the heat of the moment, when your child talks back or throws a fit, it’s easy to get frustrated and act off of your emotions. But that’s when the fine line you’re walking can quickly become a controlling or angry reaction instead of a thought-through action plan.
As no one is perfect, it’s our job as parents to apologize when we make the mistake of acting off our emotions and be willing to admit to our kids when we wrong them. It shows your child that you aren’t perfect; therefore, they don’t have to be. See more about the emotional needs of children in this post here.
It also shows your child that you are always learning and growing as a parent and will make mistakes just like them. Together you can empathize with one another in your journey as a family.
It’s not a competition, and pride stifles love. So be ever so careful with the delicate and moldable hearts that God has given you.
Also, check out – Example of a child emotionally reaching out (aka misbehavior)
Why consequences for kids are important
The most crucial factor to remember when it comes to discipline is that God uses it for good in our lives, even as adults. Without consequences or discipline, we can quickly get the idea that life will always go our way and we don't need to take responsibility when we have wronged someone or done something wrong.
As you instruct your child along their journey to understand how to "behave," it's vital that you include the important fact that they are imperfect, and that's OKAY.
Everyone makes mistakes, but their mistakes don't define them or make them any less worthy of God's love. Just as you are imperfect, so will they be.
To understand the real and raw love God has for them means that whatever they do or don't do, should never determine your love and acceptance for them.
Again, this balance of discipline and giving consequences is very fragile. So as you're reading these ideas, make sure you filter them through so much love and understanding. ALWAYS, during discipline, make sure you bring your child close and tell them how much you love and admire them, mistakes and all.
Things to consider before you discipline or give consequences to kids
- It's always good to have a game plan regarding discipline. That means you know ahead of time what the consequence will be, so you revert to that instead of anger or frustration. When you have a game plan, you are less likely to get frustrated, and the faster you respond to their behavior, the better.
- Make sure they have healthy influences in their life, especially when it comes to watching screens. This can heavily impact their behavior and mental health, so having a plan to ensure they aren't seeing things they shouldn't or having too much screen time, check out this software Bark - Designed to keep your kids safe online! Here is a short video explaining what it does and how it works.
- Make sure that you are fair in your consequences. Sometimes, at an appropriate age, you can invite them in on the consequence and let them decide what it should be. That way, they understand that the consequence was brought on by them making a wrong choice instead of it being your fault as the parent.
- Explain to them the repercussion of their bad decision. We all make bad choices. But as we grow older, we understand the consequences of those bad choices. Kids don't understand that yet, which is why having a consequence is an effective form of discipline, and the objective is that they will learn from it. But sometimes, we can assume that our kids will immediately understand why they are getting a consequence when in reality, they need a little extra explanation.
- Reward their good behavior. If they are showing kindness to their sibling, then reward them. Sometimes it's easy to only pay attention to when our kids do something wrong. But MORE than doing that, notice their kind and respectful behavior and make sure you acknowledge it. "I see how you shared with your sister. That was SO kind of you."
Prepare your kids for the world they WILL grow up in, not for the one YOU want them to grow up in.Hillary Gruener - Author of Word from the Bird
Examples: Logical list of consequences for kids that work
1. Have a conversation about it
One thing that has worked wonders in our family is when we have a heart-to-heart discussion about whatever happened. I get down to his level, hug him, and tell him I understand he's angry—that anger is a normal feeling.
Whatever he is going through—jealousy, for example—I make sure to explain to him what those thoughts will do to him if he doesn't let them go.
Sometimes, when our kids act out, it's because of something pretty profound. Sometimes it's just because they're a kid. But it never hurts to have a conversation about it and not just deal with the behavior.
Most often, when I do this, I found a deeper reason why my son was acting out. Sometimes, it's because he felt I wasn't paying enough attention to him. And had we not had the conversation, I would have missed his heart behind his misbehavior.
Encourage them to journal about how they feel
If they don't feel like talking about it, a great way for them to better identify how they feel is by journaling. That's why we've created this incredible Printable Kid's Journal -- designed specifically for kids to help them better express their feelings, encourage gratitude, and spark creativity.
2. Time in or "Break"
Instead of time out (which sends them away and isolates them) give them a time in or a break. That means they sit somewhere in the same room as you and provide them with an objective to think about.
You can say, "I can't let you be unkind to your sister. Go take a break to think about what happened and how you can make a better choice."
Then revisit it after they've had some time, and discuss what the better reaction could have been. Doing this will give them a clearer understanding of your expectations.
3. They need to fix or replace what they ruin or break
If you were specific about the rules of roughhousing, but your child did it anyway, and something was broken, then they need to fix or replace it if they are at an appropriate age to do so.
But if an accident happened as a result of them being a kid, that's different. Don't punish them for spilling milk, as kids are clumsy, and that's normal. But if they were breaking the rules, then they need to take responsibility for their actions and replace what was broken.
4. Lose a privilege
Taking away a privilege can help a child understand that not everything goes their way and also to be grateful for what they have. If they can't share their toy, then take it away for a day, and so on and so forth. You can word it like this.
"Your toy is going to take a break until tomorrow if you can make a choice to share."
5. Match the offense with the consequence
Let's say they said they brushed their teeth before bed but didn't. When addressing disobedience and lying, give them the tools to succeed next time while addressing the consequence.
You can also help them out by working things differently from the start. Instead of asking them IF they have brushed their teeth yet, knowing full well they didn't, try wording it this way..."I need you to go brush your teeth now."
This eliminates the temptation for them to lie.
But if they lie, try saying something like this.
"I understand you don't want to brush your teeth, but I still need you to tell mommy the truth. Sweets will have to take a break for a while until you can make good choices to tell me the truth and brush your teeth. Sugar bugs like to live on your teeth, and if we don't get them off, you have to go to the dentist."
This helps them understand the natural consequences that occur when they don't brush their teeth, including what happens to their teeth if they can't brush them.
6. Give them more chores
Giving your child chores is beneficial for them, even if it's not a consequence. It teaches them responsibility and will, in the long run, help them to follow through on tasks.
Check out this nifty magnetized chalk chore chart to help your kids keep track of their chores.
If you're looking for something a bit less expensive and something you can have immediately, check out my new Printable KIDALORIAN Mission/Chore Chart for kids. Parents can make chore time fun with a creative spin on the "doing chores" mentality.
7. Have them take responsibility for their actions
Let's say they said or did something hurtful to another kid on a play date. Encourage them to apologize and admit they’re wrong, so they learn about humility and treating others with kindness. But don't force their apology. Even though we may want them to do the right thing at the moment, we also want them to do it genuinely. If they can't at the moment, revisit it later on.
And the best way to teach a child an apology is to do it frequently in your parenting. Nothing is more powerful than apologizing to your child when you've wronged them.
This is quite possibly the best thing that discipline teaches a child--that they won't always be perfect, and that's okay--as long as they can take responsibility in honesty and love.
Don't shy away from disciplining your child just because, by popular belief, it's not the thing to do. When done correctly, consequences will give your children mental and emotional strength for a harsh and unforgiving world.
If we can't prepare our kids for this world, they will be a product of a spoiled and "do whatever you want" mentality that won't get them very far.
But it's with that we have to balance it with grace, love, and understanding. Parenting is more about balance than anything else.
Positive parenting tools for every parent
Bark Premium (Parental Control App - use this link or code WFTBBLOG to try it for an EXTRA one-month FREE) - Read more about Bark Premium in my review here; perfect if your child already has a phone, but you need a parental control app to do the heavy lifting of content monitoring.
The Bark Phone - Perfect for parents looking to find their children an affordable phone that protects them from all angles - internet, unsafe apps, messaging, cyberbullying, emails, etc. Starting at $49/mo, all plans include a phone, Bark Premium, and wireless service, with no contract commitment. For younger kids, you, as the parent, can enable the phone for messaging and calls ONLY. And as they mature, you can allow more freedoms/apps (any app you wish). This phone grows WITH your child and eliminates the need to purchase multiple phones at various times in their maturity.
Computer use - When it comes to their computers, you can use Covenant Eyes.
TV's, gaming consoles, and at-home protection - Bark Home (manage screen time and filter websites on all of the internet-connected devices in your house — including gaming consoles, TVs, and more. VidAngel (Skip or mute what you don’t want to see or hear on popular streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu.)
Screen Time Checklist Printable for Kids - FREE if you sign up for our weekly newsletter. Just fill out your info below.
Book List for Kids and Parents:
Check out my recommended books for parenting.
Journaling for Kids
When a child is old enough to start drawing, coloring, or writing, journaling is an incredible way to help your kids better express themselves. Check out our Kid's Printable Journals -- created specifically to help children better express their feelings, encourage gratitude, and spark the imagination.
Chores for Kids:
Magnetized Chalk Chart for Fridge
Implementing chores and structure in your child's daily life is a beneficial tool to teach them follow through, discipline, and respect. We use this chore chart in our family to help our kids keep track of their progress and keep you from constantly reminding them of their daily tasks.
If you're looking for something simpler, this is also a good option.
Chore Chart Printable - Get it NOW from the convenience of your own printer.
If you're looking for something you can print out immediately and start implementing chores in your home today, check out this CHORE CHART PRINTABLE. With a Mandalorian theme, it makes for a lighthearted and fun way to encourage kids to do their daily and weekly "missions."
Emotional Connectivity with Your Kids:
Connecting on a deeper level emotionally with your child is CRUCIAL and sometimes more difficult. We play THIS GAME often in our family to create a safe space for our kids to share their questions and emotions without judgment.
We even offer an "Exemption Time" for the duration of this game, where anything he tells us is off the table for consequences.
Check out these other posts on emotional connectivity on the blog!
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