Consequences and Discipline

kid in time out consequences

When disciplining a child the most important thing is that they LEARN THE LESSON, not receive the punishment. Does that make sense? Yes, they should receive a consequence, but we need to make sure they actually learned the lesson so they don't repeat the undesired behavior.

You also want to make sure the consequences make the most sense so that the lesson is learned.

Natural Consequences and Logical Consequences: 
Natural Consequences are the BEST because they are most likely to happen and tend to teach the best lesson. Logical Consequences are consequences that make the most sense, sometimes based on what the natural consequence would be if allowed to happen.
Here's an example: If you leave your bike out in the rain, it will likely rust. (or get stolen!). So if your child doesn't put his/her bike away- they should lose the privilege of being able to ride their bike (for a day or week perhaps). Another example: if you are mean to the cat, the cat won't want anything to do with you. So if the child is teasing/hitting the pets, then maybe they can't play with them for a day. If the natural consequence does actually occur this can be a very good lesson for the child (or spouse!).
So try to make the "punishment fit the crime" as they say, if possible. Also check with the child to see if they learned the lesson. "So honey you can't play with your toys today because you didnt clean them up yesterday. I hope you make better choices tomorrow", or "So what did you learn from not being able to play with your friends today? Yes you need to play nicely with them if you want a play date."

When you can't use the above consequences: (and other info)



  • Take away a privilege that they care about. (This will vary depending on the child and child's age. TV, computer, wii, video games, ipad, cell phone, car use for teens, sporting event, trip to a special place that was planned, etc). Even if they say they don't care- they usually still do. Make sure they realize the consequence too. For example they lose going to baseball. So take them to baseball practice but they can't participate. (Believe me- they will care!) If they sit home and play video games when they lost baseball practice this isn't really going to work! If they lose 5 minutes of pool time, don't let them play in the house, have them sit poolside and watch their friends/siblings play. 



  • Have them "Re-do" the behavior the correct way. "Try again" you could say when they answer you rudely. (See other post on that topic) 
  • Try Rewards- (see other blog post on that)
  • Have them earn their privileges instead of having them already available to them (like earning TV or computer time). 
  • Get creative! 
  • Discuss the lesson after/during the consequence
  • Ignore them. This is the simplest and sometimes the most effective skill. Its called "Planned Ignoring". Ignore the tantrum, ignore the negotiation, ignore the arguing, ignore the attention-seeking behaviors. You can say "Im waiting until you are calm." or "Let me know when you are ready", and turn away from them (don't laugh even if they are being hilarious!!) and wait for them to stop the behavior (or do the direction you told them to do). 
  • Don't argue! Don't negotiate! Give the direction. Remind them of the consequence. Then wait for child to do it. If they don't- they get a consequence. It's that simple! (TIP: Pre-set up a list of House Rules and Resulting Consequences so you dont have to think of a consequence in the moment, also so the child knows what to expect). 
  • Time outs - this isn't just the typical 3-5 minutes on the step or couch or corner, but also an item can be in time out (like a toy kids are fighting over can be put out of play for a few minutes or longer), child has to sit out and not participate in something (see ideas above), child isn't given attention for inappropriate attention seeking behaviors. Remember with time outs you can do one minute per age for little kids. Older kids this isn't usually used. Special needs kids- do the amount of minutes they are developmentally, or half of what their age actually is, or whatever is attainable!
  • Have the child explain why they got the time out/consequence to you, and how/what they will do differently and better next time. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART. This is how you can tell if they learned their lesson. I know I keep repeating this, but that's how important it is! "Yes you were in time out for hitting your sister, what should you do next time she takes your toy from you?" If the child can't come up with a response, wait and repeat the question so they don't just get away with saying "I dont know". Then if they genuinely don't know, throw out some suggestions and have them pick the right response. If possible act it out/role play the situation too. (With older kids (3-7 yr olds), little kids probably won't be able to do this(2-3 yr olds). 

Apologies: If you give your child a consequence and they beg and plead saying they are sorry. You should NOT give in, however acknowledge they are sorry, but still give a consequence (after all if you were to do something wrong at work, you might say you are sorry but may still be put on probation. Or if you got a speeding ticket, you can apologize to the cop, but he will likely still give you that ticket!) "I'm glad you are sorry, but you still are getting a consequence". 

Rewards and Consequences - ideas and charts

reward chart frozen theme

Use of Rewards is extremely effective for kids, especially kids with Autism, ADHD, ODD (oppositional defiant disorder), and related issues.
Find out what motivates your child. Rewards should be very individualized, personalized, and will vary based on the child's interest, age, and availability.
Rewards do not always have to be something bought like new toys.
Rewards could be :
-extra time (like stay up late, extra time on computer/game, etc)
-extra attention (play a game with mom/dad, go out somewhere with parents, etc...)
-special choice (pick what's for dinner, pick the movie the family watches, etc)
-trip out (for ice cream, accompanying mom/dad anywhere, playground, out to eat, etc)

Ask the child what they would like to earn or work for, and then negotiate.
If the reward can match the behavior that's even better! Like if they get all their homework done early they get to play a game with mom/dad or read an extra story before bed. Or if they do their chores (like set the table for example) they can help mom make dinner, if they like).

Reward charts can be about one specific behavior you want to increase, or used for several behaviors. The amount of time it takes to fill the chart should vary. For young children it should be pretty easy and often to get rewards (daily, or several times per day for extreme behaviors you are trying to stop), for pre teen kids usually weekly works, for teens, it should take longer to get rewarded (rewards for teens might be getting or using a cell phone, access to the family car, going on a trip/school event, things like that.)

Reward charts are super easy to make, print out, or even buy. Here are some of my favorite sites to find pre-made reward charts...
Super nanny reward charts  - info on how to make/use
Printable SuperNanny reward charts
Free printable reward charts
This site has alot of different types of charts
Chuck E Cheese Rewards - can't afford much? Use these Chuck E Cheese reward charts to get free tokens to play!

Types of reward charts:
Earn tokens/points/stickers to get to a goal (like need 10 stars to get reward)
Move along a track/up a chart/numbers to get to top/goal (move up from 1 to number 10 to earn reward)
Earn puzzle pieces to put entire puzzle together (earn the picture that is on the puzzle, or something else)

Opposite of a reward chart- a consequence chart could be losing tokens for misbehavior, or lose other things the child has/likes (take away a favorite toy, perhaps). I only suggest this method when you are trying to extinguish a behavior, not replace it with something else and rewards aren't working. Positive rewards are better, but you can try this strategy if that's not working or not possible with the type of behavior you are working on...

It's the "X" out the letters strategy.
For example a child keeps asking to go to the store when you already said No or Not now. Or a child keeps hitting or keeps doing something you want them to stop doing. A creative strategy I have used is to X out letters to something the child wants. For example I was working with a child who wanted to play with trains. I told him we have to do this and that first, then we can play trains. He kept asking me and I got really frustrated telling him same answer. So I wrote the word "TRAINS" on a white board, and told him every time he asks me I will X out a letter. If there are any letters left when we finish the work we were doing then we would play trains, if not, we wouldn't. After losing two letters, he got it and I never had a problem with that again! Another child I worked with wanted to go to the Pool but wasn't listening to what I was asking him to do- he kept screaming/making noises to be silly/clapping loudly for no reason, etc. So I drew 5 little pools on a paper, and I told him every time he does the screaming/misbehavior I would X out a pool. Once all the pools were gone, he couldn't go to the pool. He lost the pool one time (we used this method several times) and was usually pretty good after losing one X or two. Ive seen teachers use this method if the class is supposed to have a fun party and they are acting up that day (too excited or whatever). The teacher writes PARTY on the board, and every time the students are talking/not listening, etc she would X out a letter. They didnt want to lose that party so it was a good reminder to not get all the letters X'd out!

ADHD tips for teachers

ADHD boy at school

Impulse Control

  Teach child to control impulses using games like Simon Says

  Remind them to STOP and THINK

  Raise your hand silently as a cue to raise hand if child is calling out and wait to call on them until they raise their hand (ignore them if they call out)

Reduce Distractions

  Eliminate/avoid distractions in the room as much as possible

  Sit ADHD child in FRONT of the class so they avoid distractions such as other students

  Sit child so they do NOT face window, doors, highly decorated areas of the room

  Sit away from toys and computers

  Use a file folder “office” to block distractions

  For tests sit in quiet section like back of room where less children are around

Keeping organized and on task

  Many kids with ADHD cannot keep themselves regulated in If you can’t keep things regulated/organized INTERNALLY (in your head) you have to do so EXTERNALLY such as using calendars, to do lists, charts, sticky note reminders, etc

  Help kids stay on task using Timers (,  make reminder notes, have visual schedules, mark backpack/folders with reminder notes, completion checklists, picture schedule of the day, and other visual reminders

Reward systems/motivators

  Often children with ADHD, and ODD, and other behavior disorders (Autism, Disruptive Behavior Disorder, etc) do not have the internal motivation or desire to want to perform well, please parents/teachers, or achieve/succeed within themselves.  (Let’s face it we all have those days we’d rather play than work or learn! ) So they need EXTERNAL MOTIVATORs such as incentive/reward charts, tokens, behavior systems, earned allowance, etc. Basically find out what they want and then help them get that with doing the expected/preferred behavior.

  Reward systems/charts should be individualized, tailored to child’s wants, needs and interests. If child is NOT interested/doesn’t want the reward, its too hard to achieve, or its not related to them, they are highly unlikely to utilize it and actually do what you are requesting.

  Rewards DO NOT have to be Toys/Food (tangible) they can be –extra time, -special choice, -extra attention, -computer time at end of the day, -stickers, -coloring pages they enjoy, etc

  For younger children small token/reward charts work great. Make it achievable. They should be able to earn in an hour or day if they are very young, or weekly for kids who are a little older or have achieved daily rewards already.

  Older children should earn tickets/money/chips to cash in for prizes/rewards/ privileges

Other helpful tips

  place child closer to front of room, sit student next to a calmer student or away from distractions, call on child often to answer questions, or repeat back information, sit child in a chair versus on the floor

  Tap their desk/call name while teaching to get their attention

  Have them run errands/be helper for class to get out extra energy

Remind of expected behavior and establish reasonable consequences

  Tell children the expected behavior and the consequences if they don’t follow it – should be clear and concise. Remember if its simple they are more likely to hear it! For example “We are going to play musical chairs now. If you don’t follow the rules and get “out” when told, you can’t play the game again when we play next time” or “Now its time for art. If you splash the paint on the floor on purpose, you will have to sit out”.

Other disruptive behavior tips

  Out of seat on carpet/crawling around:

                                -try a chair, carpet square, move away a little from the group

·         Talking to peers next to them:

- move them away from that peer, put them next to calmer/quieter kids (boy/girl/boy/girl can work)

·         Fidgeting:

- try a fidget toy to hold (if that toy becomes distracter, take it away until they focus, then return toy to them to see if that helps. If not, fidget toys won’t work. )

-Sit on a fidget seat (School’s OT consultant should have one), exercise ball, or bean bag for extra sensory input.

  Butting in line/pushing children in line:

- put child at front or back of line, or several feet from others in line, remind of consequence “keep hands to yourself or you will have to go to back of line/lose recess/etc”

·         Have child take a walk/movement activity before having to sit for a while 

  Wandering around/not transitioning to correct center/activity:

- small chart/list of centers to choose from. They mark off each center they complete on the list.

  Not staying on task in the center:

                                - timer or task completion checklist

  Waiting/transition time - fidgeting/touching others/etc:

                                -suggest a wait game or sing songs during that time

Classroom Rewards and Consequences  for everyone

  Can be individuals earning stickers/rewards/tokens or whole class/group earns a collective prize:

For example if everyone is quiet they get extra 5 minutes recess, or if they are following directions all week, they get a special activity on Friday

  Consequences could include sitting out of the activity, not being able to sit with a certain peer, losing a toy or other privilege, and call to parents 


  Be Consistent (keep rules the same)

  Be Fair (don’t always have one child be in trouble if several are doing same behaviors)

  Give Consequences/Follow through! (if you said it would be the consequence- then make sure it is! Child will learn from that and not keep making same mistakes!)

  Use Rewards !! (makes everyone more happy!)