Effective Consequences

This is Part One of a three-part series on Conscious Discipline consequences. https://goo.gl/jrQDXo

Conscious Discipline offers solutions for social-emotional learning, discipline and self-regulation. The goal is to help parents and schools reach and teach every child. Once instilled, these essential skills will last a lifetime and positively impact generations to come.

A common misconception about Conscious Discipline is that there are no consequences. The reality is that Conscious Discipline has effective consequences instead of traditional consequences. The first six powers and skills of Conscious Discipline build a foundation that makes effective consequences possible.

Building that foundation takes time, but the payoff is huge! Effective consequences motivate children to make permanent positive changes in their behavior. This is something that quick fixes like time-outs, spankings, and even reward systems can never achieve.

Why Punishments (Traditional Consequences) Don’t Work

Before we can discuss why, we first must face the truth: Punishments don’t work. Because our belief in punishment has been deeply ingrained for generations, this truth isn’t easy to accept.

But if punishment works, why have all of us been punished at some point, only to repeat the behavior? Why are the same students punished over and over? Why are prison recidivism rates so high?

Punishment doesn’t work, and here’s why:

  • Punishments are all about us and our judgment of the behavior, rather than about the child’s actions and how they have impacted others.
  • Punishments don’t ask children to reflect on their actions or take personal responsibility.
  • They don’t ask children to recognize or manage their emotions.
  • They don’t teach missing skills.
  • They don’t intrinsically motivate children to change their behavior.

Instead, punishments intimidate children into compliance (or into lying and manipulating). Do we want children to behave because they’re scared of punishment and want to please us, or do we want them to behave because they’ve truly learned a better way?


Punishment also teaches children to rely on the judgment of others to dictate their behavior. This may work out while they’re young and the “other” is an adult. But what about when they grow into teenagers and the “others” become their peers?

The truth is this: Punishments don’t work. This isn’t just feel-good fluff; it’s brain science.

Punishments vs. Consequences

The good news is that consequences—effective ones—do work! We often use the terms “punishment” and “consequence” interchangeably, but they are not the same. The table below illustrates a few key differences:

Punishments Consequences
Make children suffer for having a problem Teach children how to solve problems
Cause children to fear making mistakes Show children that mistakes are opportunities to learn
Rely on judgement Rely on reflection and personal responsibility
Provide extrinsic motivation to please others and avoid physical/emotional pain Provide intrinsic motivation to use or learn new skills
Focus on what not to do Focus on what to do instead

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