‘Consequences are something that happens as a result of your child behaving in a particular way and they are not intended to knock a child’s self-esteem nor to punish, but to help them learn from their mistakes and not repeat them.

Benefits of effective limit setting:

• If done well, can make desired and wanted behaviours more likely to happen and make unwanted behaviours less frequent and severe.
• You will feel less frustrated and more accepting of your children when you know you can set and enforce limits when you need to.
• Children will feel less anxious and more trusting when they know their parents are in charge and will treat them fairly and with respect and as parents we become safe company to be with.
• Teaches children responsible behaviours and self-control, because they learn that their behaviours and actions will have a direct effect on them.
• The ultimate aim is to encourage the child to learn to manage both their feelings and their behaviour.

Fist you need to change your mindset:

● Think ‘teach not punish’: they might look like they don’t care, but they do. But that isn’t the point. Your job is not to punish, hurt or ‘get’ them – but to TEACH them not to do it again. To LEARN that their actions will have an effect on them. And if they look like they don’t care and that the consequences haven’t affected them, so what. You’ve shown them that there IS an effect. Think of the police officer who gives you a speeding ticket; if it seems like you’re not bothered the officer doesn’t give you another fine and then another fine until you cry. NO, they just stay calm, state the offence and issue the penalty.
● Anger is OK: this is natural and normal from your kids, they can get mad. Often we feel they should ‘take the lesson’ calmly and accept it – but in reality that is not how it works, they will most likely get mad. And that’s OK, they CAN have a reaction to your consequences. Try not to get pulled into their emotions and start telling them what to feel, not to feel or to stop feeling i.e STOP being angry – ‘it’s your own fault’ or ‘calm down’ etc. First of all it will just make their emotions stronger plus you are in danger of opening up a negotiation or debate. Stay as calm as that fair police officer: ‘I can hear / see you are upset that you can’t go to the party – I understand that you are annoyed. You don’t need to double up the consequences by yelling at them or getting mad yourself. You can still listen and understand how they feel – but that doesn’t change anything. And if you need to, just walk away and ignore!
● Begging is OK: they might beg, apologise and ask for another chance. That is OK, but don’t change anything. We are back to the god cop situation, the offender says they are sorry, begs to be let go, explains that they needed to get to the hospital to see their sick mum etc. The good cop says, ‘I’m sorry to hear about that, here is the penalty’. No emotion, just delivers the consequence as agreed (we will come to this bit about agreeing later on)
● Get rid of the word consequences: it has such a negative sound for children and parents. Why not go for something like ‘effect’ – ‘your behaviour has an effect’, ‘as agreed, the effect of you hitting is that you have to xx’
So how can we make it easier? Setting effective consequences has a beginning, middle and an end, just like a fairy-tale, where we hope there will be a happy ending.

Set one consequence for one specific behaviour: (don’t double them up) i.e. if you are rude to your sister you lose your phone, if you refuse to do your chores no television etc. Not, if you hit your sister you will lose your phone and if you refuse to do chores that will be 2 days of losing the phone!
Let the child know ahead of time what will happen if they acts out: just like there are speeding signs on the motorway, the consequences for your child’s behaviour should be clear to they. Tell they, “If you hit your sister, this is what’s going to happen from now on.” This way THEY ‘choose’ be have a  consequence, not YOU! 
Consequences should be time sensitive: they should know how long the consequence will last, not just ‘until I say so’. Less is more: a long consequence is harder for you and your child to follow through with. 10 minutes away from the TV is often better than a day. It also gives you an opportunity to ‘add more time’. If your child does not comply the first time you can then add another 10 minutes. Timing of consequences should be linked to age, the behaviour and the individual child.

How to set up consequences: 

This is the most important part and the bit where you have to do the most work. But once this is done properly, the rest will be much easier for you all. Establish the ‘agreements’ and ‘effects’:

● Talk and listen: Sit with your child and talk about what is not working for YOU and why i.e. screaming, hitting, screen time etc.

● Then agree to some rules around these issues. Here I would also recommend that you change the word ‘rule’ to ‘agreement’ as it sounds more positive. ‘Let’s set some agreements around the challenges we have in this house’. Make them positive and ‘do’ agreements, i.e. keep your hands to yourself, teeth are for eating food etc. instead of NO hitting or NO biting. 

● Then agree to the ‘effect’ (consequences). So, what happens IF the agreements (rules) are broken i.e. IF you bite your sister you will lose your iPad for the evening. IF you hit you will sit on the ‘time to think chair’ etc.

● Write up the agreements and the effects if they are broken, all sign it and have it hanging visibly for everyone to see. CLICK here for printable rule charts and agreements 


How to implement a consequence: 

Here you need to stay calm and just refer to the written agreement….

Implement it in a calm and measured way: you don’t need to be loud or aggressive to deliver a consequence or be heard. ‘OK, so you chose to hit me, therefore, as agred, you will have to xx’. STOP there, no need to explain more or it just sounds like you are trying to convince yourself and your child, plus you open yourself up for negotiation. Use as few words as possible too as you are less likely to go into word overflow where you might end up shaming, blaming or criticising your child.
Control your own emotions: our own anger can be the biggest enemy to implementing effective consequences. Before you attend to your child STOP, BREATHE and gain control of your emotions. Tell yourself that it is OK to have emotions i.e. anger, frustration etc. but it is what we do with them that matters.
Don’t give a consequence in the heat of the moment: If your child is having a full tantrum don’t throw in the consequences then. Wait till he (and you) have calmed down and then implement it. I know this can be hard when you don’t want the emotions to flare up again – but keep in mind that if you become consistent the negative behaviour will diminish over time. Don’t give in or give up.
Ignoring is a form of consequence: you don’t have to attend to all your child’s misbehaviour, attitude and words all the time. You can ignore some of it. Kids love their parents’ attention and not getting it is a form of consequence too; it will often have the same effect of diminishing behaviour you don’t want to see or hear. There are some behaviours you can’t ignore such as hitting, stealing, running away, violence, damaging things etc. 

Forget & let go:  When a child has broken a rule and received a consequence and followed through with it, then they deserves to be forgiven and given a fresh start. One of the most difficult things for children is having their parents hold resentment towards them or a negative view of them. They have ‘served their time’ so forgive them, don’t keep reminding them of their misdemeanours, and control your need to continue telling your child off.

How to deal with a child who ‘appears’ not to care: kids do this all the time. If they know you will restrict, or make them earn something they really, really want, why would they let you know what that thing is? If they pretend not to care, then maybe you won’t bother taking it away. Pretty smart, when you think about it. But they do care and they are held accountable.

● How to deal with their strong reactions: use the ‘I hear / understand / accept but here is the fine’ tool, e.g. ‘I can hear that you are upset, I understand that you are angry that you can’t have your iPad tonight – that is ok’. 

Last but not least:

Consequences should be our last resort after the child fails to follow through with rules, effective commands, where we have given warnings, ignored the behaviour and tried other positive discipline tools.

Deal with 1 or 2 behaviours at a time: otherwise it’s too much negativity for your child and too much for you to follow up on. Ask yourself what is important to deal with right now? And park the rest for later!

How will you know that your consequences work? Because your child is being held accountable for their actions

CLICK here to read more about ‘Managing child’s anger’ 

Best wishes –
Mette Theilmann – the Founder of the Parenting Community