— Podcast

#56: Reinforcing good behavior using Effective Positive Rewards

Subscribe to the Podcast


Apple Podcasts

Google Podcasts





Subscribe:       iTunes        Stitcher        Spotify        Google Play


Parents can change behavior either by reducing bad behavior using Effective Negative Consequences or by positive reinforcement using Effective Positive Rewards.

These two behavior skills are mirror skills and use the same five elements to be successful. For many parents it’s easier to give a consequence than it is to give positive rewards. Giving positive rewards is more effective long-term in shaping your child’s behavior.

We encourage every parent to learn how to successfully use Effective Positive Rewards for behavior modification.

Rewarding your child for positive behavior will give your child confidence and encourage them to learn and grow.

What makes a reward effective? Using the five components: immediacy, size/degree, consistency, important, and varied; of the behavior skill Effective Positive Rewards allows parents to use primary reinforcers to encourage better behavior.

Immediacy means that the positive reward should be given as close to the positive behavior so they can connect their positive action with the reward.

Degree/size means that the consequence should match the behavior. This one is difficult for a lot of parents as we tend to give rewards that are disproportional to the positive behavior.

Consistent means giving a reward every time a positive behavior happens. Consistency is very comforting to children as it teaches them that they can trust you and that you’re seeing and acknowledging what they are doing well.

Important means that the reward needs to matter to your child. If you are giving rewards that don’t mean a thing to your child, they aren’t motivated to improve their behavior. By using primary reinforces that matter, your child is more likely to continue positive behavior. What matters to each child will be different and may take some trial in finding out precisely what is essential to them.

Varied means that you should give a variety of postive rewards. If parents give the same reward for all behaviors, the reward loses its effectiveness over time.

Increasing positive behavior with Effective Positive Rewards requires parents to understand what makes a reward effective, but also how to use the behavior skill Effective Negative Consequences. Rewards and consequences go hand and hand, and parents need to understand both to be effective.

Visit Episode 55, for the discussion on Effective Negative Consequences.

Look for the behavior skills of Effective Negative Consequences and Effective Postive Rewards to be released in January 2020.

For more information about Effective Positive Rewards, visit the episode podcast page on SmarterParenting.com


Sign-up for a free 15-minute ADHD Smarter Parenting Coaching mini-session: https://www.smarterparenting.com/adhd-parenting-podcast/

Help the ADHD Smarter Parenting Podcast continue. Donate today! https://www.smarterparenting.com/donate-now/

Episode Transcript

This is episode 55. Let’s get started.

Smarter Parenting welcomes you to our podcast series, The Parenting Coach For ADHD. Here to heal and elevate lives is your Parenting Coach, Siope Kinikini.

Hello, my friends. How is everyone? I hope everybody’s doing well. I actually am doing fantastic. Yesterday I had a coaching session with a family, and this is the topic that we discussed for the entire time that we were on the phone, and so I am super excited actually to share with you because it’s really fresh on my mind, and it’s actually something that a lot of parents ask me about, and they ask anyone who’s working with children actually; how do I implement Effective Negative Consequences to help shape behavior?

Now, before we jump into this, we’re going to work through definitions. I need to define certain terms for you. We’re going to talk about five components that make consequences work and actually change consequences into Effective Negative Consequences. Okay? And then after that, as we discuss the five components that make it effective, I just want to share some thoughts about it. Throughout I’ll be throwing in some examples. So let’s start with definitions first, okay? First, I don’t want a million emails from people or people to contact me and tell me that there are positive and negative consequences. I do know that. In fact, I completely agree and understand that. However, in Smarter Parenting we’ve actually separated consequences with Effective Positive Reward. So we have Effective Negative Consequences and Effective Positive Rewards (behavior skill videos coming January 2020). And we’ve separated the two just to make it very clear for parents because if we start talking about positive and negative consequences, it can get pretty confusing. So we do know that here. And I do know that, but we’ve separated the two for clarification. Okay? So, no need to let me know. I know, and you know.

The reason that we did that as well is because a lot of times when you ask people about consequences, they immediately think of a negative consequence. A consequence of breaking the law, for example, is to go to jail, right? So yeah, we get that. The mind usually tends to move consequences into this negative sphere into more correctional type area. And so that’s why we have separated the two. By way of definition, you do need to understand that Effective Negative Consequences and Effective Positive Rewards are so closely linked together that when you listen to this podcast and the next podcast, which is completely on Effective Positive Rewards, you’re going to be like, “Wow, they are connected and they are used together.” And in fact, I don’t want you to feel like you are only going to be focusing on Effective Negative Consequences, because by doing that, you’re actually, tt’s a detriment to your child. You need to be implementing both of these in your interactions with your children. So listen to this obviously, and then listen to effective positive rewards. You’re going to find that they serve very different purposes and they address correcting behaviors in your children.

While we’re in definitions, I think it’s important to clarify that when we’re talking about Effective Negative Consequences, what we’re doing is we’re trying to decrease a negative behavior by implementing an Effective Negative Consequence. The goal of Effective Negative Consequences is to decrease a negative behavior. Where on the flip side, Effective Positive Rewards are trying to increase the positive behavior, so one side we’re decreasing; the other side, positive rewards, we’re increasing. As a parent, you need to know and be able to juggle the two. In fact, you need to know, okay, it’s better to focus on this and reinforce positive behavior because that will help address some of this negative behavior because it can work both ways. So, we’re going to talk about that because I think it’s super important to work with you on that.

Those are some of the definitions we do need to clarify. I do need to also clarify that there is a difference between consequences and Effective Negative Consequences. Consequences in and of themselves are blanket things, and this is what most parents use. I’m going to give you a consequence. You’re grounded, you can’t use the car. Those are consequences. Effective Negative Consequences which comes from the Teaching-Family Model, which is the model that we use, been around forever and a lot of people use it around the world to help children and families, and it’s been proven and tested for ages and for decades. The difference is this actually takes into consideration five components that make it effective and still allow for relationship to occur, allow for connection to be made with the parent, and actually helps the child figure things out in the long term. That’s the difference between the two.

One is just kind of, I’m just going to give you a consequence and there’s no real thought or systematic approach towards it, and Effective Negative Consequences actually has a systematic approach to it. There are five components that you need to consider while you are giving a consequence to your child. So, difference between that, we did need to clarify. There are consequences out there that you can give your child. They’re usually not really well thought out and they’re just kind of thrown out there, a lot of times with a ton of emotion, whereas Effective Negative Consequences has a lot more thought behind it. There’s a systematic approach. There are things that you consider before you actually issue the consequence to make it more powerful and more effective. In my experience, is always been more effective to use Effective Negative Consequences with this approach of being very systematic and logical and working through it than it is to just throw out consequences. Just throwing out consequences is kind of like throwing spaghetti on the wall hoping that it will stick. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t, and pretty soon your wall is covered in spaghetti and it’s gross. We want to be systematic. We want to know exactly what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and that approach.

Now, as far as definitions go as well, I do need to clarify that there are natural consequences to behaviors and then there are the effective negative consequences that are actually created by you as a parent to help address some of the behaviors. Let me explain what natural consequences are. Natural consequences are things that naturally happen because of a behavior. Take, for example, a child who walks outside in the winter when it’s cold outside, but they don’t wear a coat. A natural consequence for that behavior is that your child is going to be cold, right? That’s just the natural thing that’s going to happen. And regardless of how the child feels, regardless of what they do, throwing a tantrum, whatever, that natural consequence is never going to change. In fact, it’s going to stay consistent. It’s just natural.

Another example would be a child who refuses to eat dinner. A child refuses to eat dinner, the natural consequence is, they’re going to be hungry. It doesn’t matter what they feel, what they think, they throw a tantrum; it’s just a natural thing that’s going to happen. You don’t eat, you’re going to be hungry. Those are natural consequences that naturally occur when a behavior happens. Sometimes with children, those natural consequences don’t stick and they start to learn it over time. I remember working with a family and we were talking about natural consequences and I said, “Well, you know, children do learn from a very young age natural consequences,” and parents are like, “What do you mean?” And I’m like, “Well, it only takes once for a child to try and walk through a wall to realize the wall is never going to move. It’s going to consistently be there regardless of the baby crying or whatever. They can try it over and over, but after a while they’re going to be like, okay, this is a wall and the wall is not going to let me go past it, so I got to figure something else out.” Right? Natural consequence.

Those are natural consequences. In fact, natural consequences are great teachers because again, they’re consistent, they don’t change and regardless of whatever the child does or misbehaves or whatever, it’s going to stay the same. One thing that I think is super great to talk to children about is this idea that there are natural consequences, but there are also Effective Negative Consequences that use a parent, you will need to introduce to your child to help shape some of the negative behaviors, because the natural consequence isn’t as apparent or isn’t as cut and dry as the examples that I’ve given. So, you are going to have to supplement the negative behaviors they may have with teaching them through the use of Effective Negative Consequences.

All right, so we’ve clarified that there are natural consequences to things and then there are Effective Negative Consequences that you as a parent are going to implement to help shape and decrease your child’s misbehaviors. Okay? Great. I hope that clarifies a lot. Again, don’t send me a million emails unless you want mini coaching. If you want the mini-coaching, send me an email and contact me on the Smarter Parenting website. Be happy to sit down and we can work through some Effective Negative Consequences that you can use and implement with your child. I will tell you this. If we are going to be talking about Effective Negative Consequences, we are also going to be talking about Effective Positive Rewards, because they are so connected. Solely having both of those available for you to use and to adjust and change around is going to make you more powerful as a parent and more effective. We’ll be talking about both of those, but for this podcast in specific, we will be focusing in on Effective Negative Consequences.

Now, what are the five components that make Effective Negative Consequences work? I’m going to list them and then we’re going to discuss them. The five components really quickly are, it needs to be immediate. The size and degree of the consequence needs to be appropriate for the misbehavior. You need to be consistent. The consistency, important. Effective Negative Consequence needs to be important to your child, needs to have value for your child. And then the fifth component is you need to vary the consequence, not giving the same consequence over and over for multiple things but actually adjusting for specific situations. Again, immediate, degree, size, consistency, importance, and then varying the consequence.

Let’s start off by talking about immediate. Children live in the present. They live in the now. When they have a behavior, connecting that behavior with a consequence actually helps them connect those two things. They realize, “Hey, I should adjust this behavior so this doesn’t happen.” And if you don’t do that, then the child may have a misbehavior and if the consequence comes later, they may actually not even understand how they’re connected or why this is happening. I did work with a family that actually issued their consequences once a week, so they had a misbehavior. They wrote down their misbehavior, and then at the end of the week when the family gathered together, they would issue consequences for the misbehavior. That did not work well for younger children because for them, they’re like, “That was a million years ago.” Okay, it was three days ago. That was a while ago. For them, they didn’t see any correlation between the two.

So, what we did was we adjusted it and we had the parents issue the consequence immediately following the behavior rather than waiting a week. What that did was it decreased their misbehavior because they’re like, “Okay, if I behave this way, then this happens. Okay, I get it. Those are connected rather than I behave this way, nothing happened.” And then finally something happens and they’re like, “You’re talking about…I don’t even remember that.” So, it needs to be immediate. The more immediate you can make it, the better off it’ll be, especially for younger children. But even for teenagers, keep it immediate, because that’s the complaint a lot of teenagers have. “That was a million years ago, and I did great yesterday, so why are you punishing me now?” Right? No, no. Keep it as immediate as possible. Within the same day, if possible. Keep it immediate.

Now, the second component is degree or size. The question you should be asking yourself about degree or sizes, does this consequence match the misbehavior? Or am I giving a consequence that’s too big or too small? Think of Goldilocks for example. She goes into the bear’s home. She not comfortable in the Papa Bear’s bed because it’s too big, not in Mama Bear’s, but then finally Baby Bear’s, it was just right. You’re going to have to figure out if the consequence is too big. If you’re giving a consequence that’s too big. Your child is going to feel defeated and they’re going to feel like it’s not worth it and they’re going to explode. If you give a consequence that’s too small, your child is not going to care. It’s going to be like, ah, not a big deal. It doesn’t match. There’s a disconnect. If you give one that is just right, the right size for the right type of misbehavior, then your child’s going to make the connection and be like, “Okay, I can deal with this and it’s important to me and I.” The degree is right for the behavior. “Okay, I shouldn’t behave that way anymore. I should adjust. I should change up what I’m doing,” because this consequence is effective. It’s working.

Parents tend to go on the extreme side. They tend to ground their child for a month. That’s pretty extreme. You have to ask yourself, what behavior precipitated that decision to ground my child for a month, and does that behavior match? So, that actually leads to consistency, which is the third component. Consistency is, can you follow through with the consequence as a parent? Can you follow through in being sure that the consequence is carried out and completed? Take for example, that thing that I had mentioned earlier about being grounded for a month. Are you able to follow through to be sure that your child is grounded for a month?

Now, I was working with a family where it was just a single mom and she would issue consequences of grounding her child for a month. However, she was working after school and so there’s no way for her to monitor her child. When we went through the components of whether or not that was an effective consequence to be giving her child, she immediately realized that it’s not, because she cannot monitor him when he’s at home and she’s at work. There’s just no way for her to do that. She couldn’t take the time off of work to call in and be sure and have him check. She just didn’t. So we had to adjust the consequence in order to make it work for what she could follow through with. So, we actually changed the consequences for times that she could be there to monitor him and to help him and to do that. And so, we just had to make some adjustments to that.

But you have to ask yourself as a parent, if I’m issuing a consequence, is this something I can follow through with? Remember, sometimes you issue a consequence, but the consequence is also on you. If you are going to ground your child for a month, in a way, you’re grounding yourself for a month. Are you able to follow through with all of that? Are you able to do that? Ask yourselves those questions. All right? That is the third component. The fourth component is, is this consequence important for your child? Because if they don’t care about it, the consequence is going to be ineffective. They have to have some value in the consequence. It has to be important for them to realize, “Hey, I didn’t like that. That’s important to me. I don’t want that to happen again.” So ask yourself, is this important for my child? Is this important for my child to actually start to change their behaviors? That’s the fourth component.

The fifth component is varying the consequence. This also is a tricky one for parents. A lot of parents that I’ve worked with usually have three consequences that they give out for everything. Misbehaviors small or big, they’re just giving out the same consequence. You need to adjust and you need to vary the consequence based on the behavior. And in fact, you can have different consequences for different behaviors because again, you’re trying to measure degree and size. Does it match the misbehavior? You’re going to evaluate the consistency of your ability to follow through. You’re going to evaluate how important it is for your child and you’re going to evaluate if you’re going to be able to give it immediately. So, give yourself some flexibility and some latitude to adjust the consequences as needed and that you are not going to be giving the same consequence all the time to your child. You’re going to adjust it and especially as your children get older, you’re going to vary the consequence. You’re going to adjust it and make it work, so being flexible with the consequences.

Now when you take into consideration all five of these components, you are going to be able to structure an Effective Negative Consequence to help change your child’s behavior rather than just throwing out a consequence and hoping that it sticks. We don’t want that. We don’t want to do that. We want to be very concise and very clear and systematic in our approach. So, when I work with families, what I suggest that they do is that we choose one behavior, and then we evaluate what our possible consequences are. Once we determine what those are, we’ll take one consequence at a time and we will go through the five components to see if they’re a good fit. We’ll see if they can give it immediately. We’ll see if the degree and size is appropriate for the misbehavior. We’re going to see if they can follow through as a parent to be sure that the consequence is completed. We’re going to see if it’s important for the child, and we’re going to see if it’s the same consequence we’re giving for everything or if we need to tweak it. What are some things that we need to do to tweak that and make it work? Right?

If the parent is able to successfully answer yes to all of those; yes, it’s the right size. Yes, I can give it immediately. Yes, I can follow through. Yes, this is important for my child. Yes, I varied it and made it adjustable to the needs of my child. When they can say yes to all five of those, then we start implementing that for that behavior. What they found is by being able to do and approaching it that way, it takes all the stress out of figuring out a consequence for misbehavior and it actually tells them exactly what they need to do and why they need to do it, and it gives them a blueprint. For parents who have children who are working through consequences, I highly suggest you sit down with your child and you work through these and you explain to them each of these components, and you talk to them about consequences and why you’re implementing specific consequences for specific behaviors. That actually will teach your child that you are thinking about these things and you’re not acting irrationally. It also sets up the expectation for your child to behave and to correct specific behaviors. It also prepares your child for what will happen if they misbehave, and there’s a certain safety and comfort in knowing what is going to come, the anticipation of what is going to happen.

So, again, there are just so many benefits to doing this. It seems like there are a lot of components and there are a lot of steps and things to consider. However, the more you do this, the easier it becomes. So if you do this for three consequences to address a behavior, if you’re writing this out and you’re figuring it out, what you’re going to find is it’s actually easier as you go and pretty soon you’re going to be able to work through Effective Negative Consequences very quickly to address negative behaviors. So, it’s worth it to take some time upfront to save yourself a lifetime of stress and uncertainty, and you want to do the work upfront to save yourself from all of that drama, because it will be drama.

I hear this all the time with parents where they’re just like, “There’s so much drama when I issue a consequence that I’m terrified to give a consequence.” The reason being is because it’s a high emotional situation. What we’re doing by systematically approaching this is we are removing that drama by establishing set norms. We’re making everything predictable for everybody that’s involved, and you should never be in a position where you are scared of doing the right thing with your children. You should always have a plan and always be in control of what it is that you should do. Usually, parents who are scared are running off of emotion, and so by doing it this way where we are removing that emotional response and actually replacing it with an approach that has been tried and tested for generations and it works, it absolutely works.

So, I just want to reiterate the components of Effective Negative Consequences which are, it needs to be immediate. The degree and size needs to be right based on the behavior. You need to be consistent. There needs to be consistency in that, and that you’re able to do that consistently over time. It needs to be important for your child and, then the last component is you need to vary the consequence, so don’t always provide the same consequences for everything. Vary them and be sure that there is some variation in there and adjust them as needed. You will be making adjustments as you go. If you have a consequence right now that you issue your child, I challenge you to actually go through each of these five components. Ask yourselves these questions in order to determine whether or not this is effective.

You’re going to know whether or not your consequences are effective because your child is going to be able to either adjust and make changes to their behavior or if it’s not effective, they’re going to continue doing what they’re doing and they’re going to laugh at you pretty much because they’re just like, “Yeah, whatever. I don’t care.” So again, so much benefit in being able to use this approach in helping to address your child’s behaviors. There is just so much to this, and in fact, we’re going to get more into this as we discuss Effective Positive Rewards in the next podcast because Effective Positive Rewards also help shape behaviors. There is this balance between the two where we want to emphasize the positive things your child is doing and also give Effective Negative Consequences to help teach the behavior. Sometimes focusing in on the positives will help decrease some of the negatives, and sometimes helping with the negatives helps us realize that we need to move more into the positive and address the behaviors that way.

Both of them are needed. I’m not saying one is more important than the other, but what I’m saying is, is if you have both and you know how they both work and how they can work together, you are going to be the most powerful parent in the world. I’m going to say the world, because this is the one area where parents struggle the most. They just need to figure out how to issue consequences that work. They struggle with that, and then they become frustrated and that’s when things become really difficult and hard to handle. So, I’ve given you a blueprint in establishing Effective Negative Consequences and this blueprint will serve you well if you can follow through with those. Again, do not be discouraged that it’s a lot of thinking upfront. As you do this and you do this over, addressing different misbehaviors, you’re going to find that it’s become so much easier and it starts to become ingrained in the way that you think through things, that it’ll be very natural.

And again, it does provide a sense of security for your child because they know what to anticipate. It addresses future instances where they may be thinking of misbehaving and addressing those as well, and it will give you peace of mind. I cannot tell you how many parents have said, “Thank you for teaching me this,” because this actually has taken the stress out of addressing negative behaviors because they’ve systematically approached the negative behavior and they know what to do. Right? They know exactly what to do. Wow. I have talked a ton about this, but seriously, I could talk forever about this.

If you have questions, send them to us. If you want to sign up for a mini-session for coaching, I am here. Feel free to sign up on the Smarter Parenting website.

I do have to give a shout-out to the Utah Youth Village who sponsors Smarter Parenting, and that allows us to produce these podcasts. We want you to share this podcast with friends, with family, with anyone who is working with children, as this will be very beneficial to them and also to the children that they work with. We are happy to present this. Thank you, Utah Youth Village for all your support and help in creating Smarter Parenting and providing this as a free resource for parents around the world. That’s it for me and I’ll see you next time with Effective Positive Rewards. Bye.



Blog post: The difference between consequences and punishments

Blog post: How to teach your children consequences

Blog post: Do consequences really work?

Ep #30: Difference between consequences and punishment


Behavior skills of the Teaching-Family Model

Behavior skill: Preventive Teaching

Behavior skill: Effective Praise

Behavior skill: ABC’s of Behavior

Behavior skill: Effective Communication

Behavior skill: Role-playing

Behavior skill: Observe and Describe

Behavior skill: Correcting Behaviors

The Teaching-Family Model


Ep #46: Understanding the ABC’s of Behavior

Ep #47: Mastering Observe and Describe

Ep #48: What it takes to change behavior

Ep #49: Compound effect of Effective Communication

Ep #50: Changing behavior through praise

Ep #51: Finding Success with Preventive Teaching

Ep #52: How to fix negative behaviors

Ep #53: The importance of Following Instructions

Ep #54: Teaching kids to make better decisions


Free 15-minute ADHD coaching mini-session

Podcast sponsor Utah Youth Village

Support the ADHD Smarter Parenting Podcast. Donate.

Podcast Transcript

The transcript text is below. You can also download the PDF file of the transcript here.