Coming up with creative consequences for kids of all ages is important as we work to raise our kids in discipline and love. While I definitely want to encourage rewards and positive reinforcement for good behavior, consequences are inevitable.
Creative Consequences for Kids of all Ages
Are you familiar with the book, “Brain Rules for Babies,” by John Medina, leading brain expert? In this book, he points out that the most effective parenting is parenting with an authoritative approach.
Here’s a graphic to help understand what that means:
Parents that are authoritative provide a high level of warmth AND boundaries with discipline. Read more about that here.
Consequences are just part of raising kids, and I have found that being consistent and loving while providing variety is the most effective approach.
Kids tend to respond best when different, creative consequences are used. Being consistent simply means that they know that certain behaviors will provide a reasonable consequence for the infraction. Novelty or “mixing it up” can give better results.
It’s great for kids to understand the why behind your rules and expectations, especially for teens. Building empathy, relationship and buy-in are key.
Be up front about what behaviors will always end in a consequence.
Things like dishonesty (including lying or cheating), blatant defiance or complete disrespect might be behaviors that are unacceptable and will always call for a consequence.
I would encourage you to give consequences when the whole house is calm. If you are angry, wait to get control. If your child is angry, wait until they get control.
There are some kids that go from 0-60 quickly. When they are in an angry state, their frontal cortex shuts down. Their ability to think logically goes out the window and they remain in an elevated fight or flight mode.
It is good to give them the tools (breathing, space, quiet) to calm and then provide a consequence for behaviors.
It is important, as a parent, to give out a consequence and then let it go. Don’t hold past wrongs over their head. Every day is a new day with a clean slate.
Note: Many of these ideas are my own, but some of this is taken from an online thread after a friend posed a question.
List of Creative Consequences for Kids of All Ages
The attempt here is to be fairly comprehensive in this list, so while some of these ideas are typical and expected, I also want to provide some out of box thinking.
I will provide the concept and the age range for use.
To explore which consequences make sense for different behaviors, visit here.
All consequences should be given in a calm, loving, clear way with few words. “You hit your sister. We have loving hands. You need to…”
Another thing to consider is compounded consequences. If they aren’t following through on their first consequence, time outs get longer, jobs get more involved or physical activity is intensified.
Know your kids well. Some will like solitude, so sending them to their room is an actual blessing. That wouldn’t be considered a consequence. For others, the opposite is true. Some hate manual labor while others love screen time. Different consequences will speak to different kids.
Time Out (Age 2-18)
This is one of the most basic consequences, so it doesn’t quite fit the creative category. That said, I think it is effective. Length of time outs can be given based on age. So if you have a three year old, they can be given a 3 minute time out.
While 18 might seem old for this, it can be effective when there is an activity in which they want to participate. Sitting around for 18 minutes while the rest of the family is watching a movie or while they want to run out the door to meet friends will feel painful.
Unlimited Time Out (Age 2-13)
While a typical time out has a time limit. An unlimited time out has time determined by the child. Read more about that here.
Essentially this kind of time out is good for tantrums or emotions that are out of control. They get to stay in time out until they can get self control.
It might look something like this, “I can tell that you feel angry. You need to sit here until you are under control, and then we can deal with the situation.”
Giving Jobs as Consequences (Age 3-18)
This consequence idea is my favorite right now. It means my kids have a consequence, and I get much needed work done. Read more about that here.
If you want to determine what jobs might be appropriate for what ages, this post that includes my great list of chores for different ages will be really helpful.
Yard work is a great consequence.
Physical Activity Consequences (Age 3-18)
Using physical activity as a consequence is another effective approach.
If kids talk back, have them plank for a minute. If they are rude to their sibling, do sit-ups.
Right now, if my kids yell at one another or raise their voice at me, they run to street and back. We have a long driveway. If yelling continues rather than obedience? They do it twice.
Other physical activity consequences can include jumping jacks, squats, wall sits, push ups, burpees or sit ups.
Taking Away Stuff (Age 2-18)
Finding a child’s currency is important. Most kids have a beloved item. For younger kids it might be a favorite stuffed animal. For older kids it might be their phone.
When taking away stuff, it could be for a day, a week or forever, based on the infraction and the item.
You might be interested in the time we stripped my daughter’s room of all her stuff.
For teen girls, taking away hair styling items (except a brush) and/or make-up might speak to them.
Handling Issues of Not Doing Chores or Leaving Wet Towels on the Floor (Ages 8-18)
Kids not doing their chores like dishes or picking up? Stack everything on top of their bed – even their dishes they left on the sink. You can put a towel down to protect the covers.
Wet towels on the floor? No problem. Just stick them under their covers. They will learn.
Also, avoid nagging. Just say, “That’s fine you don’t want to clean your room right now, but there are no friends, screen time, fun activities, or making more of a mess until it’s done.”
Taking Away Activities (Ages 4-18)
Kids have things they look forward to – playdates with friends, outings to the park, parties or after school activities. I have had to follow through in some tough parenting moments to really speak to my kids.
You do not need to give away a specific activity either. If kids are being disrespectful to you, you can say something like, “Right now, I don’t like the way you are interacting with me, so I don’t trust you interacting with others outside our home. Until this gets fixed between us, your activities are limited outside the home.
Another example is when siblings can’t seem to get along. “I’m sorry, but until we can treat our sister well, I don’t trust you with friends. We need to get this relationship right first,” is a very effective response to change patterns.
Inventing Activities (Ages 5-18)
This one will require outside help with younger kids, but older kids can stay at home on their own. Inventing activities means that you plan something that you were not going to do.
A sudden trip to the ice cream shop might exclude the one who has been pushing limits all day. Family game time, a shopping trip, a movie night are all activities that can be invented on the fly to provide a consequence for a child.
Wifi and Screen Turned Off or Passwords Changed (Ages 5-18)
If kids aren’t following through on behavior or chores, all access to Wifi and screen access are shut down. For teens, access to their devices is especially good leverage.
Early Bedtime (Ages 8-18)
Sending kids to their room early for the evening can speak to kids. Tired of their behavior or the way they are treating people? “Sorry, you’re done for the day. Come back tomorrow when you decide you are going to treat people better.
Of course, sending them to their room should be without any kind of device.
Work for Someone Else (Ages 12-18)
I gave the option to have them work for you. What about volunteer their time to work for someone else. Find an elderly person in your neighborhood that they could do yard work for. Have them dedicate time to serving at your church or at a food bank.
Finding ways to bless others will actually bless them. This is a great consequence for overall change of behavior. Helping grandparents can be a great idea also.
“Until you learn to talk to us with respect, you’ll need to volunteer to weed Mrs. Smith’s yard every Saturday for two hours.”
We want to teach kids to serve anyway. Humans are naturally selfish, which is often at the root of the issue you are having with them. This teaches them to get out of their own way by learning to think of others.
Writing (Ages 6-18)
We have required writing of all sorts as a punishment. This can contain a repeated word, phrase or Bible verse. You could also have them write an essay about the behavior you are trying to eradicate.
Letters of apology are also important if they have hurt an individual.
Wake them Up Early (Ages 12-18)
Giving them an early wake up might speak even more than an early bedtime. My dad was known to run the vacuum outside my room or come in with a squirt gun to get me out of bed.
F.A.M.I.L.Y Rules (Ages 5-18)
I cannot speak into this myself, but on a Facebook thread I had another mom swear by the concept put forward in this book, by Dr. Matthew Johnson.
After the raving review by another mom, this is on my read list.
Repetitive Consequences (Ages 5-18)
If your child fails to obey and put the game away, let them take it out and put it away 10 different times.
If they continually slam the door shut, have them quietly shut the door 50 times.
Does your child not put their shoes in the closest? Let them take out their shoes, put them on their feet, take them off and put them away 20 different times.
Charge Them Money (Ages 8-18)
I have been charging my kids money for behaviors I’m trying to eradicate. Every rolled eye = $1, Yelling at Sibling = $1, Swearing = $1 – You can charge any amount, depending on what will speak to the individual and how deep their pockets are.
Loss of Treats (Ages 2-18)
Food speaks to my kids. Taking away the next dessert that comes their way can speak to them. If they have candy, charge them candy for their behavior.
Sitting Out in Sports
If your kids are really struggling with certain behaviors at home, being willing to talk to the coach – even if your kid is the star player – and let them sit out of games can speak huge. It will be embarrassing and heartbreaking so can work fast to eradicate certain behaviors.
This definitely takes a lot of strength for a parent to decide but can speak into the fact that character is more important than things like winning or fame.
Add Humor (Teens)
At the right age and with the right relationship, you can get a teen’s attention with humor. This dad gave his daughter a choice – I get your phone for two weeks, OR I take over your social media accounts for two weeks. She chose the latter, and the results were hilarious.
I had a dad who liked to use humor as a tool too. I would whine or complain, and he would just laugh. The squirt gun would come out, and I’d get nailed in the face. We have a very warm relationship, so for him to provide an annoying yet humorous consequence would lighten the mood and build into the relationship.
Embarrassment should only be a tool if there is a depth of relationship and a child that can handle it.
Remove the Door or the Lightbulb (Ages 5-18)
Slamming doors or locking people out an issue? Disrespect an issue? Entitlement an issue? Remove a door.
Kids aren’t going to bed at night? Remove lightbulbs.
Natural Consequences (All Ages)
Natural consequences are the best. The most important thing is to not come to the rescue.
They break something, it needs to be replaced on their dime and effort. Lunch forgotten? They’ll be hungry. If they forgot their jacket, they will be cold. Forgot their homework? A bad grade is received.
I sometimes come to the rescue if it is not an established pattern of behavior.
Let them Come Up with Their Own Consequences (Age 5-18)
Often times, a kid will come up with a consequence that is heavier than what you would issue. You can let theirs stand or be the hero by lightening their load.
You should have the caveat that it has to be something you agree to as well.
Beyond Creative Consequences for Kids of all Ages
Beyond consequences, there are so many great parenting strategies.
Build a strong relationship built on support, conversation, love, service, fun and trust. If you lovingly and firmly invest in them without spoiling them, they are more likely to trust you.
Talk and listen. You will talk more when they are younger and transition to listening more as they grow. In parenting, often fewer words are better.
Helping them to understand that life goes so much better for them when rules are obeyed is important. Explain the why behind your reasoning rather than a “because I said so mentality.”
Build in understanding through stories, Bible lessons or personal examples of why what you expect from them benefits both them and the community or family as a whole.
The more buy-in you create to the family structure and way of life, the less consequences will be needed.
If you are only the heavy and never the fun one, it’s going to be hard to earn their respect.
That said, some kids are just harder than others. Period. Some kids you look at sideways and they fall in line. Others will take a lifetime of pursuing. They will test the boundaries and be more likely to rebel. Remain loving, calm and a safe place to land.
Blessings as you raise your kids in love and discipline.