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You unconditionally adore your child, but parenting may be tough, especially when you don’t know how to handle some of your youngster’s challenging behavior problems. We’ll aid you with that in this post.

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One of the most effective strategies for getting your child to stop or at least decrease their problematic actions is to implement particular procedures immediately after they perform it.

When your child experiences something right after performing a certain way, it will either increase or decrease the chance that they will repeat that behavior in the future.

The events that follow a behavior are referred to as consequences in applied behavior analysis (ABA) or behavioral science.

We’ll look at several strategies for parents to use consequences effectively in order to decrease challenging (or disruptive) behaviors or increase acceptable (more acceptable) actions in their children.

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What is the definition of a consequence?

The word “consequences” has a negative connotation in the general public, but in behavioral science, consequences are not good or bad. This is simply a label for what happens after an action or behavior.

Consequences contrast with antecedents, which come before the action. Learning about consequences can assist you in any behavioral goal you have for your child, whether it’s stopping doing something they’re currently doing or starting doing anything new.

What is the purpose of behavior?

Let’s look at the purpose of behavior before we discuss how to implement consequences in order to change your child’s behavior.

One of the most essential aspects to consider when determining whether particular consequences will be effective, is to figure out what a behavior’s goal is.

The four elements of behavior are:

  • AUTOMATIC REINFORCEMENT: which may include a behavior that responds to sensory encounters
  • ESCAPE: getting out of something
  • GAIN ATTENTION: catching the attention of another person
  • ACCESS: having access to a tangible thing

Understanding the purpose of your child’s behavior may help you figure out why they are behaving in such a manner..

If you know why the behavior is occurring, you can devise a successful strategy to address it or modify it.

You can choose to employ a consequence to reinforce an acceptable behavior that performs the same function as the one that is maintaining your child’s challenging behavior.

If your youngster lies on the floor and refuses to do his schoolwork, you may assume that this pesky behavior is driven by an urge to flee..

You may modify a different behavior, such as your kid asking for a 15-minute break politely, by allowing him to take his time away from school while still enabling him to avoid homework in an acceptable manner.

Consequences vs. Punishment: What’s the Difference?

Consequences and penalties are not the same, according to behavioral science, and they are in direct contrast with what the majority of individuals believe.

Parents’ or guardians’ actions to restrain their children or get them to cease doing something are referred to as punishment.

Punishment is a kind of consequence in ABA therapy. It’s a goal-oriented consequence, which means it’s intended to decrease or eliminate how frequently a certain behavior occurs.

Although parents may need to resort to punishment in order to get their kid to stop doing something, it is critical in the end to think about how you will educate your youngster an alternate behavior or what they should be doing instead of the problematic or hazardous activity.

You’ll use reinforcement to help your youngster accomplish more of something.

What Are the Different Types of Consequences? What Are They, Anyway?

Consequences may fall into four broad categories:

  • Positive reinforcement
  • Negative reinforcement
  • Positive punishment
  • Negative punishment

Positive Reinforcement

It’s critical to figure out what you want your kid to accomplish rather than simply avoiding the things you don’t want them to do! This is the secret to dealing with difficult behavior. They must be informed and educated on what they should do instead.

Reinforcement is a consequence meant to improve or increase the chance of a behavior happening again, and it’s what occurs when you consider positive or negative repercussions as a strategy to strengthen or encourage a behavior.

When a consequence makes the behavior it follows more likely, it’s called a positive reinforcer (Schwartz & Watling)..

It’s difficult to know if a consequence is a positive reinforcer until you see whether your child’s behavior has changed. If you notice that they are exhibiting the conduct you are attempting to reward more frequently, then the consequence is truly a reinforcer.

Here are the steps to properly utilize positive reinforcement with your youngster::

  1. Identify the goal behavior (how you want your child to act)
  2. Identify what fantastic consequence (a potential reinforcer) will follow from your child’s engagement in this behavior (for example, the reward of something they like, a compliment from you, or a natural consequence such as being able to go outside after putting shoes on).
  3. Keep an eye on your youngster often.
  4. Recognize when your youngster does the desired action.
  5. Make sure your youngster receives the reinforcer (“the wonderful thing”) as soon as he or she engages in the target behavior.
  6. Continue to watch your child and utilize the desired reinforcer to see if he or she uses the target action more
  7. frequently.

How to Use Positive Reinforcement to its Maximum Effect

Do the following to make positive reinforcement more successful:

  • Don’t give your youngster free rein over the reinforcer you’ll use to attempt to educate him a new behavior. This makes it less effective.
  • Reinforce the new replacement behavior often at first, and then decrease the reinforcement as your kid gets better at it.
  • Thank your youngster for doing well and acting in the manner that you would want them to. Praise is a simple yet often successful way to encourage your kid.

Negative Reinforcement

Negative reinforcement occurs when a behavior is repeated more frequently as a result of the stimulus being removed, terminated, reduced, or postponed (Cooper et al., 2014).

Negative reinforcement is when you reward your child for performing a certain way rather than punishing them for doing something wrong. As a result of this, when negative reinforcement works to alter your child’s behavior, you’ll notice that they act in a certain way more frequently as long as they had the pleasure of getting out of something or evading something – usually something

This might be something you intended to teach them or maybe it’s something they learned through previous experiences.

Negative Reinforcement: An Example

Negative reinforcement, in particular, may be utilized by parents as a consequence to influence their child’s conduct during times when the youngster might rather not face something unpleasant.

Let’s examine an example. If your youngster outright refuses to perform domestic chores, you may use negative reinforcement by promising them that if they complete another activity, they will be permitted to leave the dishes (their regular job).

It is possible to do anything with a parent’s permission, including babysit or play with their younger sibling for a set period of time – after all, they are capable of doing so.

Negative Reinforcement: What to Do When It Doesn’t Work

Negative reinforcement works best if you combine it with other training methods. Here are some things to try:

  • Give the negative reinforcement, the consequence employed to encourage a certain behavior, as close to the actual behavior as feasible.
  • Negative reinforcement shouldn’t be used too much. Positive reinforcement should be utilized more frequently. If negative reinforcement is used incorrectly or excessively, it might produce unpleasant emotions in children.
  • Make sure your child can experience the “negative reinforcer” as well. For example, don’t allow your kid to finish or get out of his math homework until he finishes the stated 5 problems.


Punishment refers to any action taken or event experienced after a behavior that decreases the probability of that behavior recurring in the future.

Punishment is a technique in behavior analysis for removing undesirable or nonpreferred behaviors, but it might also be used in everyday life to punish appropriate ones if misused.

When a youngster is punished, something is either added or removed; in the case of negative punishment, for example, a child might be yelled at by his or her parent. These experiences cause the target behavior to occur LESS frequently.

Reinforcement and Punishment

When you use punishment, the behavior happens less frequently in the future than when you use reinforcement. In both negative and positive reinforcement, however, the act occurs MORE frequently in the future.

What Should Your Child Do Instead?

One disadvantage of punishment is that you are not teaching your kid what you would want them to do in place of the “troubled behavior.” You’re only concerned with the undesirable actions.

This method of punishing your child may work for some children, but as most parents know, harsh discipline is a necessary part of child development. Parents should collaborate with their kids to help them learn other more constructive skills and behaviors so that they may better support their child’s growth.

Punishment Types

Negative and positive punishment are the two primary types of sanctions. Positive reinforcement, for example, is a type of positive punishment that works as a consequence for actions. Reinforcement, on the other hand, is a form of positive punishment that serves as a consequence for behavior.

Positive Punishment

Something happens after a behavior to reduce the likelihood that it will occur again with negative punishment.

When a youngster uses their cell phone at the dinner table, for example (and the parent doesn’t want them to), it’s an example of beneficial punishment.

During supper, the parent may chastise the youngster for leaving his phone in his room.

In this example, the parent scolds the child for having his phone at supper as a consequence. If positive punishment is utilized effectively, the result will be that the kid won’t bring his phone to supper (or not as often).

Negative Punishment

Negative reinforcement is the process of removing something good or stopping a behavior from recurring in order to prevent it. This sort of punishment is referred to as punishment by removal (Cherry, 2020).

A classic example of negative punishment is when a kid throws his toys at his sister, and the parent takes away the toys before he does it again. In this scenario, something is taken away – the toys – to decrease a behavior – throwing the toys at his sister.

The Drawbacks and Considerations of Punishment

There are several disadvantages to punishment that make it less successful than reinforcement. These are worth considering.

Positive reinforcement, on the other hand, should be used as frequently as possible, and punishment should be used only sparingly or for significant concerns or if reinforcements fail.

Let’s take a look at a few things to keep in mind while employing punishment:

  • It’s critical to administer the punishment as soon as possible. The longer it takes you to deliver your child a “punisher,” the less effective your efforts will be.
  • If you stop using the punishment technique, your youngster is more likely to resume performing whatever it was you were attempting to get them to cease doing.
  • Children may develop negative long-term consequences of punishment, especially when it is used excessively or ineffectively. A youngster who lives with parents who scream at them frequently might believe that shouting is the only way to make people do what they want.
  • A youngster who is disciplined may respond with a barrage of emotions or, in extreme cases, violently.
  • A youngster may begin to avoid the parent who uses punishment.
  • Behavioral contrast may occur, which means the kid will act in an incorrect way by displaying the behavior you’re attempting to eliminate in various locations more often.

Instead of focusing on what you don’t want your child to do, focus on what you want them to accomplish.

Using Consequences to Change a Child’s Behavior

As we previously said, there are four broad categories of consequence. Positive and negative reinforcement and positive and negative punishment are examples of this.

The type of consequence to use to change a youngster’s behavior is determined by the goal a parent is trying to achieve as well as the behavior itself. When deciding which consequence to apply, it’s vital to keep in mind the purpose of the activity you want to modify.