How to Discipline with Rewards and Consequences: 15 Steps
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extra trip to the park can be an enjoyable reward.

Rewards and consequences are an effective way to discipline young children, but they need to be consistent and logical. The ultimate goal of discipline is for the child to develop self-discipline, after all. If your child expects to get a new toy every time he puts on his own shoes, you're not encouraging self-discipline, you're encouraging him to turn into greedy Violet from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.


  1. 1
    Write down the rules. Write down three or four basic family rules, such as, "Keep your hands to yourself," that cover many situations. Try to use positive terminology, "Walk only," instead of negative, "No running."
  2. 2
    Make sure the rules are age-appropriate. Expecting your 3 year old to sit through an hour long dinner, for example, is not age-appropriate. If you're unsure about what would be appropriate for your child, ask your pediatrician or your child's preschool teacher.
  3. 3
    Review the family rules with your children so that everyone knows what is expected of them.
  4. 4
    Post the rules. Make a poster out of the family rules and hang it somewhere everyone can see it.
  5. 5
    List ideas for consequences. Make sure they are age-appropriate and simple.
  6. 6
    Consider natural consequences. If your child keeps leaving her block creations in the middle of the living room and you are worried she'll be sad when they inevitably get knocked down, that's a natural consequence.
  7. 7
    Decide which behavior gets which consequence. Natural consequences make sense for things like leaving toys out, but not for running into the street.
  8. 8
    Discuss consequences with your child. Let her know what to expect if she breaks the rules.
  9. 9
    Use praise. You're not going to want to set up a reward chart for every little behavior. Try to praise your child when he is being good instead.
  10. 10
    Encourage natural rewards. Maybe if she gets ready for bed quickly, she gets an extra story.
  11. 11
    Choose one behavior to shape at a time. Pick one thing your child is struggling with the most, like keeping his hands to himself.
  12. 12
    Talk to your child about a reward. This is going to be daily for a preschooler, so make sure it's something you can afford to do. Each good day could equal a sticker and 10 stickers could equal a few dollars to spend at the dollar store. Another option is having 10 stickers equal a family movie night or extra trip to the park.
  13. 13
    Make a reward chart together. Include the desired behavior and spaces for how often it happens during a typical day.
  14. 14
    Add stickers when appropriate. At the end of each day, attach a sticker if the desired behavior was achieved. If waiting all day is too much, you can break the day down into smaller increments and attach stickers for those.
  15. 15
    Give the reward. Try to be as immediate as possible to strengthen the connection between the behavior and the outcome.


  • Share your rewards and consequences with baby-sitters and family members so that everyone in your child's life is consistent.


  • You don't want your child to rely on rewards for all positive behaviors. Be strategic and plan on phasing rewards out when a behavior is consistent.

Things You'll Need

  • Poster board
  • Markers
  • Stickers
  • Preparation

Article Info

Categories: Education and Communications

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