Effective Negative Consequences

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Effective Positive Rewards

There are two ways to change behavior. Parents can either stop a negative behavior through consequences or increase positive behavior through rewards.

The behavior skill of Effective Negative Consequences helps parents stop bad behavior. In contrast, the behavior skill of Effective Positive Rewards helps parents encourage good behavior by rewarding what they do well.

Parents need to use both Effective Negative Consequences and Effective Positive Rewards if they want to be successful in changing behavior.

Effective Negative Consequences are given when a child breaks a rule or needs to be corrected. An Effective Negative Consequence has five components that make a consequence successful. They are immediate, degree/size, consistent, important, and varied.

These five components help parents give consequences that reduce bad behavior.

There is a difference between consequences and punishments. Typically, when parents give a “consequence,” they are giving a punishment. A consequence is the result of an action and is meant to teach your child. A punishment is anything that causes emotional, mental, or physical damage to a child. Punishments are normally given when a parent is angry. Giving your child a punishment may work in the short-term to change a child’s behavior, but punishments will damage your relationship in the long-term as your child will fear and despise you.

Effective Negative Consequences teaches your child you have their best interest at heart. Consequences for kids means being kind, calm, and consistent. When children understand expectations and “why” they’ve received a consequence, they view you as fair and trustworthy, which builds trust and strengthens relationships.

One of the significant benefits of using Effective Negative Consequences is that it removes emotions from the equation. It allows your child to know you are disappointed at their behavior and not at them.

Here is what parents should do when learning the skill of Effective Negative Consequences

  1. Watch the Effective Negative Consequences skills video and become familiar with the five components.
  2. Print out the components of Effective Negative Consequences. Place it somewhere you’ll see it often for easy reference.
  3. Determine a behavior you want your child to change. 
  4. During a neutral time, use the steps of Effective Communication to talk about the skill of Effective Negative Consequences and show the Effective Negative Consequences skills video. 
  5. Using the Effective Negative Consequences Behavior Contract, discuss appropriate consequences for the specific negative behavior. Remember, that involving your child in the discussion gives them greater buy-in, so don’t skip this step.
  6. Begin giving the agreed up consequences each time the negative behavior happens. Start with only one negative behavior, so it doesn’t get too overwhelming for both you and your child. 
  7. Don’t give up! It can be challenging to make changes, but we promise that the hard work will be worth it in the end! 

Suggestions for parents when using Effective Negative Consequences

  • Stay calm. When a child does something wrong, it’s easy to get upset. Being upset usually makes the situation worse. It’s okay to take a break and come back and address the negative behavior when both you and your child are calm.
  • Start by addressing one negative behavior. It’s challenging to be consistent when addressing multiple issues at once. 
  • Don’t start with the most challenging behavior. Starting with less challenging behavior gives you the confidence you can provide Effective Negative Consequences, and gives your child confidence that they can make changes. 
  • Make sure the Effective Negative Consequences decided upon is something you can do. If a parent can’t follow through with the Effective Negative Consequence, it will cause more problems. They will learn they can’t trust you and that consequences aren’t necessary for their actions.
  • A consequence that works for someone else may not work for your child. It may take some trial and error to figure out what works for your family.
  • The same consequence may not work for every child as every child has different things they value. It’s okay to give children different Effective Negative Consequences for the same bad behavior.
  • Don’t give up if it doesn’t come quickly. You’re not going to get the hang of giving Effective Negative Consequences overnight. It may take a week or a month or longer, but it will get easier over time if you’re consistent in using the components.
  • Give yourself some slack. It will take time to where giving and following through with consequences feels natural.  
  • Use Effective Praise. Praise yourself for the progress you and your child are making, even if that progress is little! It takes time to get all the components right.
  • When an Effective Negative Consequence is no longer working, switch it up using the five components of Effective Negative Consequences.

Effective Negative Consequences are much more powerful when combined with Effective Positive Rewards. Parents who use both skills report a more significant change in behavior.

Help, Activities, and Testimonials

Research articles on Effective Negative Consequences

Consequences are meant to teach and help our children learn. The following organizations have written about the benefits of using consequences instead of punishments.

The following activities help families choose appropriate consequences to teach

How to use this activity

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Skills Effective Negative Consequences