Positive Parenting: 4 Steps to Effective, Fair Consequences

All kids push the limits, put a toe right on the line, challenge authority. That’s their job. And you want your child to do this – within reason. Doing so helps them understand limits and guides them to becoming independent, respectful adults.

With that said, by following these four guidelines for fair and effective consequences, you may need to give fewer of them.

  1. Use Calm, Respectful Voice

This can definitely be a hard one, especially when you’re frustrated, because it’s the 17th time you’ve asked your kid to stop kicking the back of the seat.

However, it is essential that you discipline yourself first before disciplining your child. We want our children to listen to us, not become defensive or shut down.

Using a calm and respectful voice can promote discussion rather than silence or anger. It also models the behavior we’d like to see exhibited.

  1. Set Consequences That Are Related to the Misbehavior

For example, if your child doesn’t put his toys away, then no toys the next day or next two hours, depending on your child’s age.

If your child comes home past curfew, she loses the privilege to go out the next night or next weekend.

Set consequences that are short-term and related.

  1. Be Consistent and Clear With Your Expectations

Set clear expectations using a collaborative approach where your child has input, but you have the final word.

Discuss expectations ahead of time and explain the reasoning behind the expectation. Writing down rules is always helpful.

Sometimes kids break rules because the rule hasn’t been clearly stated or there are differing expectations between parents.

  1. Follow Through

“You’re grounded from screens for ONE WHOLE MONTH!” Frustration and anger could lead us to declaring consequences we cannot or will not enforce.

If you renege on a consequence, you endanger your credibility and diminish your effectiveness.

Reality With Results

In the heat of the moment, we might lose our cool or say something unreasonable. That comes with parenting.

When parents do mess up, apologizing to your child later, saying how you assume it made them feel, and how you’ll try to prevent such responses in the future can be extremely powerful.

By owning your mishap, you have modeled taking responsibility for your actions, demonstrated your comfort with vulnerability, and shown a willingness for compassion.

These steps show that you’re human too and we’re all on this journey together.


Laura Bonzo-Sims, Ed.D., has been an educator for 25 years, serving as a college advisor, middle and high school English teacher, and graduate school professor.

Katherine L. Stone, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist who has practiced in Lexington for almost 20 years, focusing on mental health issues that affect today’s youth and young adults. Contact them at www.parentingparadox.org