It's your job to set limits and consequences that motivate your child to behave.

Five Consequences of Disobedience in Kids

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

“But, Mommy, why can’t I go outside?” your little one whines, only to discover that failing to clean his room means he must still clean the room so he won’t have time to go outside before it’s dark. He learns that his actions have consequences, and he might not like the results, depending on his choice. Maybe next time he’ll decide to clean his room!

1. Logical Consequences

Logical consequence is the most effective response to disobedience, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. When your little one wastes time playing instead of cleaning her room, she finds she must still clean the room, but there isn’t time to play outside because it’s nearing dusk. If she breaks a toy, it stays broken and gets tossed out with the trash. Consequences relate directly to the disobedience. Make logical consequences fairly immediate for young children, or they don’t tie the consequences to the misbehavior.

2. Timeout

Many parents use timeout when a child disobeys. You might sit your child in a chair for the same number of minutes as your child’s age in years. A preschooler might stand in the corner and a toddler might spend timeout in a playpen with no toys. Applied consistently, timeout works for some children. Unfortunately, you can’t keep your child’s mind in the corner, so a creative child might find interesting ways to amuse himself and thwart any sense that his timeout is a negative consequence.

3. Fines

A child who receives an allowance could receive fines for negative behavior. This works well if the child’s allowance is tied to good behavior. For example, if she receives a nickel for cleaning her room, a messy room results in a fine of a nickel. This doesn’t work well for some children, especially those without any concept of how money works or those who don’t have an allowance tied to chores.

4. Penalties

If you use a behavioral chart with points, stars or other positive reinforcement, removing points for disobedience makes sense. You might have your child remove the points or have your child watch as you remove the points. This is a form of logical consequences, in the sense that positive behavior earns points. If a loss of a point is the only consequence, your child might not get the message and still not choose a more appropriate behavior the next time.

5. Negative Practice

Negative practice requires your child to repeat an action you don’t want your child to do until the child is sick of the activity. Your child could shadow box for the age-appropriate time limit if she hits a sibling or walk briskly up and down the hall if she doesn’t stay in bed at bedtime. This type of consequence can become extreme, so use reasonable limits such as time equal to age in years, safe activities she doesn’t enjoy and activities that don’t include physical contact with another person.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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