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House Rules: Name the Consequence

Disciplining children for not following rules that you have set for them often happens on the spur of the moment. This doesn't always give you time to think about the best approach before you react.

That's why it is most important to set the consequences for breaking a rule at the same time that you set the rule. This allows children to understand what will happen if they don't follow the rule. It also allows you to put the previously determined consequence into effect when you are not in an angry frame of mind.

Consequences fall into three categories:

  • Natural consequences are the results of misbehavior. For example, if children refuse to eat their food at the dinner table, they will stay at the dinner table until they eat it (they may miss out on something they like to do).
  • Logical consequences are related to the misbehavior. For example, if a child doesn't put away a toy, then it will be taken away for the rest of the day.
  • Losing a privilege is taking away something totally unrelated to the misbehavior. For example, if a child doesn't complete an assigned chore, he or she might lose TV time that evening.

Below are some situations involving breaking rules. Read each scenario below with your child. Discuss the consequence that should follow the misbehavior. We have included some points to consider.

Next, use "Not Allowed" at the end of the scenarios to let your child draw or describe behaviors that are not allowed in your home. Discuss possible consequences for each misbehavior.


Five-year-old Daniel's dad said Daniel could play outside without supervision as long as he played in his own backyard or next door in his friend Tyrone's backyard. An hour later, Daniel's dad went outside to look for him and found both boys two doors down, playing in someone else's front yard.

Discuss: What should Daniel's dad do?

Points To Consider

  • Help children understand the "why" of the rule. Adult fears are not necessarily a child's fears. Daniel's dad could have hugged him, said how scared he was, explained why, and how happy he was that Daniel was okay.
  • A logical consequence would be that Daniel cannot play outside without supervision for the rest of the weekend.


Meghan's mom is walking into the back door of the apartment, when she notices that Meghan has once again left one of her favorite books outside. And, it looks like it's going to rain.

Discuss: What should Meghan's mom do?

Points To Consider

  • Meghan has obviously done this many times and has had to be reminded over and over again to bring her books and toys with her when she goes inside.
  • A natural consequence would be to not say anything to Meghan about the book. And, if it rains, the book will get ruined. Meghan will learn to take better care of her things.
  • Or, if Meghan remembers about her book before it rains and brings it inside, it will give her mother an opportunity to praise her good behavior.


While fighting with another child in her kindergarten class, Angela hit the child with a toy. Angela's teacher called in her parents for a chat. This wasn't the first time that Angela engaged in this unacceptable behavior.

Discuss: What should Angela's mom do?

Points To Consider

  • If Angela learned this behavior through watching others, how could Angela's mom be more careful about preventing this behavior again?
  • Angela could lose a privilege, such as being able to select the family movie to watch on TV that evening.
  • Asking the teacher to let the mother know when Angela has stopped displaying inappropriate behavior with her classmates. This will allow Angela's mom to praise her good behavior.

Not Allowed

Draw or write behaviors that are not allowed in your home. Discuss with your parents the consequences that might happen if you do something that is not allowed.




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Updated on 4/5/2013