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How to Use Consequences in Parenting

By February 1, 2021April 2nd, 2022Parenting, Teens/Children

Many parents are unsure of how to end negative behaviors and what kind of consequences to use. The answer to this question depends a lot of on the type of behavior that is occurring and the age of the child. Some types of consequences include ignoring, time out, and natural and logical consequences.


Ignoring is a very effective consequence that can be overlooked by parents. Many of the negative behaviors produced by children are simply attention seeking behaviors. Therefore ignoring the behavior can end it all together. Children often engage in behaviors such as whining and bickering, and parents may attempt to end these behaviors while unknowingly reinforcing the behavior. When parents step in and tell the child to stop, this is a form of attention. Although it is negative attention, it is still better than no attention.  If the parent is able to ignore the child instead, then they learn this is not a behavior they will get attention for and the behavior ends.

Time Out

Using time outs to calm children down can be a very effective consequence for young children. Essentially, time out is an extended version of ignoring, as you are removing your attention from the child. Make sure to set clear rules and expectations for time outs, so your child knows what to expect. Time outs are recommended for aggressive behaviors and should be implemented immediately following the behavior. The amount of time that time out should occur should be the child’s age, so four minutes for a four-year-old or five minutes for a five-year-old.  Time outs are not recommended for children under three years old. Time out is not only a consequence, it also teaches emotion regulation and gives children space to calm down. When your child emerges from time out, let them rejoin their previous activity and praise the first positive behavior you see after the time out.

Natural and Logical Consequences

Natural and logical consequences are an additional way to use consequences with your children.  A Natural consequence would be what would occur if you did not intervene. For example, if your child refuses to put their bike inside, a natural consequence may be that the bike gets stolen.  A logical consequence may be losing screen time if your child does not stop using their iPad at the agreed upon time. Natural and logical consequences are best used for children five years and up who will understand the concept.

Remember consequences are most effective when used consistently and for the same behaviors each time. For example, aggression always gets a time out, whining always get ignored, and not cleaning up always gets less screen time. As a parent, you also have to be prepared to follow through with the consequences to ensure consistency.

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