• Rewards and Consequences

    by Various Year Published:


    (“Punishments” that might be helpful to use when

    your kids misbehave, to discourage their misbehavior)

    • Missing a favorite TV show, or not being able to play video games for the day.
    • “Time Out” – having to sit in an isolated place, away from the family, with no attention or interaction for a certain amount of time. The minimum amount of time is one minute for each year of the child’s age (for example, six minutes for a six-year-old), but you can go up to 10-15 minutes if that short time does not seem effective. The minutes only count as long as the child is sitting quietly and calmly- not talking, calling for you, yelling, kicking, etc. Do not start timing the child until they are sitting properly, and do not respond to them calling for you or otherwise trying to get attention.
    • Extra chores around the house.
    • Monetary fine.
    • Going to bed early.
    • Loss of dessert, special snack, or favorite treat.
    • No playing outside or playing with friends for the day or the next day.
    • Take away a special toy for the day or longer. (This is a great one if they are not cleaning up their messes! If you expect them to pick up their own toys but you end up picking them up, just put the toys you pick up “away” for a while, until they earn back the privilege by cleaning up their toys like they are supposed to. You’ll probably only have to do this a few times before they get the message that kids who do not clean up their toys do not get to keep their toys!)
    • If you can think of a way for your children to right the wrong they caused, that is usually a great consequence. For example, if your son broke his brother’s pencil, maybe he has to earn money somehow to buy him a new one. Or, if your daughter was careless in the kitchen and spilled the crackers, she has to pick them up and sweep up the crumbs.
    • Consequences should be given in a calm, non-angry, matter-of-fact voice. If you get angry and emotional, kids focus on you instead of what they did wrong. For some kids that reaction even encourages them to misbehave again, because they have so much control over your emotions and they know they have the power to make you angry and excited!
    • It is really important to BE CONSISTENT. If a behavior is not acceptable on Monday, it should not be acceptable on Tuesday, Wednesday, and so on. If kids get away with misbehavior sometimes, it encourages them to keep misbehaving- they are always wondering if they will get away with it one more time! It is okay to use different consequences for different situations, but your expectations and standards should be the same every day, whether you are at the grocery store or at Grandma’s, even if you have had a hard day at work, etc.
    • Make sure your expectations are reasonable. If your child is getting punished for the same thing over and over, it could be that it is not a reasonable thing to expect a child his age to do. Small children cannot sit perfectly still for very much time, they might not be able to play quietly by themselves after a long day at school, etc.
    • Look for ways to prevent the problem from happening in the first place. For example, if the kids always fight over the TV channel, set up a plan that specifically says who gets to choose the channel at what times.
    • Make sure to teach your children what you want them to do instead of misbehaving. If you punish them for an action, you should be sure that they know exactly what you want them to do instead. Do not tell them what to do when you are angry and fussing, teach them in a calm, matter-of-fact way.
    • Try to make sure that your consequences do not take away most of you and your child’s connection time. All kids need attention and connection! Kids might even be misbehaving because they need extra connection. So, for example, use a time out for misbehavior, but make sure there are other regular, daily opportunities for connection like snuggling, talking, reading together, and one-on-one undivided attention time. If you take away a bedtime story as a consequence, make sure that the child still has other regular, daily connection opportunities that he or she does not have to “earn” because they happen regardless of his or her behavior.
    • Make sure that your children get positive attention when they are acting the way you want them to. This does not have to be a big deal or mean big rewards, just recognition when they are acting right, hugs, thanks, compliments, snuggling, time together, some extra listening, positive attention, etc. Try to make sure there is plenty of attention available in your house when kids are acting the right way and that there is not as much attention available when kids are acting the wrong way.
    • Lastly, an idea that can help prevent bad behavior in the first place is spending one-on-one parent and child time regularly, maybe once a week or as often as your schedule allows. During this time, the child has your undivided attention (no answering the phone, cooking dinner, etc.) and the child gets to choose the activity (within reason- these activities do not have to cost money, but if the child wants to play Barbies, get down on the floor and play.) If you have two parents in your home, it is ideal for each child and each parent to have their own one-on-one time together.


    (ways to encourage your children to behave, because when they do they can earn these things)

    • One-on-one time with a parent or other special adult to play a game, read a book, etc.
    • Going on a "mystery ride" or drive in the car
    • Marble jar or warm fuzzy (cotton ball) jar- add a marble or ball to the jar for meeting behavior goals. When it is a filled there is a reward or surprise, or certain numbers of items can be redeemed for certain rewards.
    • Money jar (add coins for meeting behavior goals, charge "fines" for misdeeds)
    • Flying a kite
    • Making a blanket tent in the house
    • Backyard picnic or camp-out
    • Staying up a half-hour later on weekends
    • Going to a relative's house, park, or library
    • Parent or special adult comes to school to have lunch
    • Special notes in lunchbox or hidden in child's room
    • Special snack or lunch item of child's choice
    • Reading an extra book at bedtime, or reading a chapter in a special "reward" book
    • Downloading a new song
    • Making a special snack like popcorn or ice cream sundaes
    • Bubble bath at bathtime
    • Helping prepare a dessert or meal of their choice
    • Letting them choose the family dinner
    • Helping parents with special projects
    • Their choice of playtime or project, like painting, play-doh, building a lego city, playing catch
    • Special rubber stamps or stickers in a book or on a chart
    • Going for a walk or bike ride
    • "Dance party" in the living room with fun music
    • A sign counting the days meeting the goal, like “8 green days in a row!”


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