Disciplining our children well takes wisdom, consistency, and empathy. It also helps to have a ready sense of humor, a whole lot of love, and a good supply of patience. Then, on top of all that, there are times you need to mix in a little creativity—creative consequences. So look over these creative and, sometimes unusual, discipline ideas. A few might seem a little out there, but let them inspire you to come up with alternatives of your own.
These creative consequences were created by author Lisa Whelchel. As you’re considering your discipline approach, use our Consequence Calculator Printable to help you choose the right consequence for your child. Here are 21 Creative Consequences.
Note: We have sorted the consequences by age groups but know that many could apply to multiple or all age ranges.
1. If time-outs don’t work, try a “time-in.” This can be accomplished by sending your child to a designated spot where he must complete a task that has a definite beginning and end. This could be putting together a small puzzle, stringing 50 beads on a piece of yarn, or tracing the alphabet. A time-in diverts his energies and encourages him to focus on something positive.
2. The same goes for throwing fits. Tell your child to go to her room to continue her fit. She isn’t allowed to come out and she has to keep crying for 10 minutes. Ten minutes is an awfully long time, and it’s no fun if your parents tell you to cry.
3. If you have younger children who are messy, try this: Put their toys in a “rainy day” box to bring out later. This has the added benefit of making an old toy seem new again. Or set the toy somewhere out of reach but within sight for a predetermined number of days. This increases the impact of the correction by keeping the forbidden toy fresh in their minds. Or put it in jail (Little Clutter Jail printable)–your child has to do a chore to get it out.
4. If your little one gets too hyper, come up with a code word to remind him to stop the action without embarrassing him. Whenever Tucker started getting too rowdy in a group, I would yell, “Hey, Batman.” He knew that he needed to calm down before I had to take more drastic measures.
5. You’ve heard the reprimand “Hold your tongue!” Make your child do it—literally. Have her stick out her tongue and hold it between two fingers. This is an especially effective correction for public outbursts.
6. Another way to handle temper tantrums is to simply say, “That is too disruptive for this house. You may continue your fit in the backyard. When you’re finished, you are welcome to come back inside.” When there isn’t an audience, the thrill of throwing a temper tantrum is gone.
7. Timers set definite boundaries. For example, with a timer, you can say, “I’m setting the timer. I want your room cleaned (or your shoes on, or the dishes unloaded) in 15 minutes. If you haven’t finished by then, your correction is….” This method not only spurs on easily distracted children, but it also leaves little room for arguing about a job that isn’t finished and whether the correction is warranted.
8. Adjust bedtimes according to your children’s behavior that day. For each infraction, they must go to bed five minutes earlier, but if they’ve been good, they can earn the right to stay up an extra five minutes.
9. If your children are constantly turning in sloppy schoolwork, get a few photocopied pages of printing or cursive exercises. (These can be found at any teachers supply store.) Then ask your haphazard child this: “What takes longer: a report done neatly in 15 minutes or one you’ve sped through in 10 that must be redone and warrants a page of handwriting practice?”
10. My friend, Becki, tried a variation of this idea in the car. If things got too raucous or there was too much fussing between siblings, she would cry, “Noses on knees!” Her children then had to immediately touch their noses to their knees until she determined that they had learned their lesson.
11. If your child likes to stomp off to his room or stomp around in anger, send him outside to the driveway and tell him to stomp his feet for one minute. He’ll be ready to quit after about 15 seconds, but make him stomp even harder.
12. If a job is not done diligently, have your child practice doing it. She’ll learn to be more thorough if she’s made to sweep the floor three or four times because her first effort wasn’t good enough.
13. Does your child slam the door when she’s angry? You might tell her, “It’s obvious that you don’t know how to close a door properly. To learn, you will open and close this door, calmly and completely, 100 times.”
14. Make a homemade “Correction” can and fill it with tickets or slips of paper with various consequences written on them. Instead of giving your child a time-out, send her to the can for a slip. A few ideas might include no TV or computer for a night, early bedtime, or an extra chore. Toss in a blank piece of paper, a “mercy” ticket. This gives you an opportunity to talk about how God gives us mercy even when we deserve punishment. (These ideas from our Clutter Jail printable and Little Clutter Jail printable can work for a “Correction” can too.)
15. Next time your child “forgets” to put something away, like video games or sports equipment, put it away for him. When he asks where it is, tell him that he’ll just have to look for it. Believe me, he will learn that it’s a lot more trouble to find something that Mom has hidden than it is to put it away in the first place.
16. I heard from a mom who had tired of her three sons’ ceaseless noises and sound effects—so she got creative. If her boys did not take their commotion outside, she would make them sit down and listen to the “Barney” theme song cassette for 10 minutes. For adolescent boys, it’s torture!
17. If you have dawdlers, try this: Whoever is last to the table at dinnertime becomes the server. But there’s a catch. Even if you’re first, your hands must be clean, or you’ll end up serving the food, pouring the drinks, and fetching the condiments (after washing your hands, of course!).
18. I have a friend whose son’s morning chore was to get the pooper-scooper and clean up the doggie gifts littering the backyard. The boy was not doing this job with much diligence, so his father came up with this creative solution: After the boy had completed the task, he would be required to run through the yard barefoot! From then on, their lawn was perfectly clean.
19. If you repeatedly open the door to your child’s room only to catch him in an act of disobedience, take your child’s bedroom door off the hinges. It sounds harder to do than it actually is. And it works wonders!
20. When one of my children is acting disrespectful, disobedient, or defiant, I will instruct him or her to choose a chore from the Job Jar. The jobs include scrubbing the toilet, organizing the pots and pans, moving and vacuuming underneath the furniture, weeding the garden, matching up odd socks, defrosting the refrigerator, and cleaning the closet, garage, or under the bed. And those are just a few possibilities. You could add ironing, vacuuming the refrigerator coils, scrubbing the inside of small wastebaskets, polishing the silver, cleaning the window wells, brushing the animals, cleaning the fireplace, shaking the kitchen rugs, vacuuming the couch, alphabetizing the spices, and using a wood cleaner on the dining room chairs. Not only does the Job Jar help to get my house clean, but it also keeps my little ones from complaining that they’re bored. They know that with the Job Jar, Mom will always have an antidote for boredom.
21. An especially tough but effective correction for teenagers who forget to wear their seat belts is to add an additional day past their sixteenth birthday before they can take their driver’s test. Hey, it’s important! (Use this Teen Driving Contract to help your children understand your expectations.)
10 Bonus Consequences From Readers
- Make a list when they say, “I’m bored”. When my kids say anything about being bored, they are required to sit and do nothing (including having conversations) until they list 10 things they would rather be doing (and could be doing) than sitting in time-out. I almost never hear my own kids use the bored word anymore, but they are maybe a little too happy to catch their cousins and enforce the rule on them. -Joy
- Put both kids in an extra large t-shirt. If you ever have kids who continue to bicker with one another put them both into an extra large t-shirt for a period of time. If they want to do something they have to work together.
- Cleaning windows on opposite sides. My parents would place us on opposite sides of the entry-way door, with cleaner and towels in hand. It’s hard to stay angry and bicker when you’re both trying to clean the same window while being instructed to make all the ugly faces you want. -Tracey
- Dressing for school. When my daughter was 9, a normal consequence was having to wear a dress or skirt to school. Doesn’t sound like a big deal? For my jeans, tee shirt, and converse girl it was punishment enough to only have to do it once! -Marie
- Read a 100-page book. My child in second grade was very low in reading. So when she was grounded for any reason I made her go to the library and get a book with 100 pages or more. She had to read the book and when she was finished her punishment would be over. At the end of the school year, she was the top-notch reader in the class. Now she is 33, is a speed reader, and loves to read. -Gail
- Book in the hands. My son has gotten to the point that time out, taking things away, or anything else for that matter doesn’t work. Recently I decided to try something new so whenever he misbehaves he has to stand with both hands straight out to his sides with a book in each hand for 2 minutes. Every time he lowers one of his hands he gets another book on top, I don’t use heavy books, but his behavior has been much better ever since. -Shaston
- Wall squats. We have taken to giving our kids wall squats. 30 seconds to a minute. It’s when you sit in a sitting position against a wall (without a chair or sitting aid) with arms up in front of your body. This also improves muscle tone and builds up core muscles. Two birds, one stone. -Candy
- Take the bed away. There seems to be a narrow window of age when lying can be easily corrected by acknowledging the bravery of telling the truth. I got it right by accident with my first child but didn’t know how important it was with the second child. Lying became a huge problem for him. Lying about things that didn’t matter, lies on lies to cover up lies. A friend had told me that her daughter slept on the floor for lying and it worked. So I tried it. We warned him about it, caught him in a lie and he slept on the floor for 2 weeks. Then we gave it back because he was sick, which was a mistake. We had to take the bed away again for an entire summer when we caught him lying consistently. It worked fairly well. Now there have been times he has tried to lie but fessed up right away. -Tarbo
- Positive consequences reward jar. At the end of the day, if a child hasn’t acted out or done something that needs some recognition, have them draw something from the jar. It can include having a treat like ice cream, a trip to the movies, or staying up extra late. -Vin
- For not taking care of animals. She or he gets breakfast and dinner only after she/he feeds the animals. She or he also does not get her electronics or any other entertainment until they are cared for. -Rita
Tell us! What’s your most creative consequence?
Taken from Creative Correctionby Lisa Whelchel.
At iMOM, we know that correcting our children is tough. We are always trying to find new ways to help moms train up their child well. Here are a few other resources we have come up with that might help:
Obeyball Game Printable–a game where kids are rewarded for first-time obedience.
5 Discipline Options–if you are new to disciplining here are 5 options.
Consequence Calculator–a great printable to use with the child that needs a lot of correction over and over.
For more resources, visit our Child Discipline page.
With less than an hour to go before my seven-year-old daughter’s bedtime, my home was a long way from being the oasis of calm I was hoping for at that time of evening.
Instead Lily had just scribbled all over her homework worksheet, thrown her pencil on the floor and was now yelling at the top of her voice: ‘I hate Math. I suck at it.’
With my younger daughter to put to bed, Lily in a melt-down and me exhausted after a day at work, the tension was rapidly rising.
But even if I could calm ourselves down, there was no end in sight. Even if I could persuade her to finish her math homework, Lily still had the whole book reading to do.
So I was facing two choices –
Should I stand over her and insist that not doing homework was NOT an option?
Or, should I tell her to put the books away, write a note to her teacher and just let her unwind and play in the lead-up to bedtime?
Have you been there? What choice would you make?
The choice I would make now is very different to what my choice would have been a few years back.
Back then, I’d try to push through with a mixture of cajoling and prompting and assurances that she did know how to do her Math really.
If that didn’t work then maybe in despair and frustration that she didn’t seem to want to try, I would have got angry and tried to explain how serious I was about this.
A Game of One-Upmanship
Like every parent, I had started out assuming I was simply doing the very best for my child by making sure her work was as good as it could be.
After all, what choice did I have? From the very early days in the private nursery she attended, I found myself surrounded by lots of other mothers locked into the same race to make their children the brightest and the best.
As Lily got older, I came to learn how insidiously contagious pushy parenting is.
If one of the mothers spotted another a parent with a Kumon Math folder, we all rushed to sign up too – for fear our children would get left behind.
Neurosis underpinned every conversation at the school gates – particularly as all of us were aiming to get our children into a small handful of selective private schools in the area.
Bit by bit, the parenting journey which had started off being so exciting and rewarding, was turning into a stressful game of one-upmanship.
But children are not products to be developed and put on show to reflect well on us.
Depending on what happens on the night, every child is conceived with a unique combination of genes which also maps out their strengths, weaknesses and personality traits before they are even born.
Lily may have been bred into a competitive hotbed. But as an innately modest and sensitive child, she decided she did not want to play.
The alarm bells started ringing in Grade Three when, after I personally made sure she turned in the best Space project, she won the prize. While I applauded uproariously from the sidelines, Lily, then seven, fled the room in tears and refused to accept the book token from the Head.
When she calmed down, she explained she hated us making a fuss. But what is just as likely is that she disliked the fact that her successes had become as much ours as hers. Even at that young age, no doubt she also realized that the more she succeeded, the more pressure she would be under to keep it up.
Over the next few years, the issues only deepened.
The Problem of Not Doing Homework
Slowly, Lily started to find excuses for not doing homework. Our home started to become a battlefield. She would barely open her books before yelling: “I’m stuck” –when really she was just terrified of getting it wrong.
The increasing amounts of homework sent home by the school gradually turned our house into a war zone – with me as the drill sergeant.
Homework is one of the most common flash points between kids and parents – the crossroads at which academic endeavors meet parental expectations at close quarters – and behind closed doors.
Surveys have found that homework is the single biggest source of friction between children and parents. One survey found that forty per cent of kids say they have cried during rows over it. Even that figure seems like a dramatic underestimate.
Yet more and more, it is recognized that homework undermines family time and eats into hours that should be spent on play or leisure.
A straightforward piece of work that would take a child twenty minutes at school can easily take four times as long at home with all the distractions and delaying tactics that go with it.
As a result, children get less sleep, go to bed later and feel more stressed.
Homework has even started to take over the summer vacations.
Once the long break was seen as a chance for children to have adventures, discover themselves and explore nature. Now the summer months are viewed as an extension of the academic year – a chance for kids to catch up… or get ahead with workbooks and tutoring.
But ultimately homework abides by the law of diminishing returns.
Researchers at Duke University found that after a maximum of two hours of homework, any learning benefits rapidly start to drop off for high school students.
While some children will do everything to avoid doing it, at the other extreme others will become perfectionists who have to be persuaded to go to bed. Some moms I spoke to had to bribe their children to do less!
Given the cloud of anxiety hovering over them, no wonder some of these children perceive education as stressful.
Pushed to the Brink
Perhaps fewer parents would go down the path of high performance parenting if they realized how much resentment it creates in their children. The irony is that all this obsession with pushing our kids towards success, pushes away the very people we are trying to help.
While all of us would say we love our children no matter what, unfortunately that’s not the message our kids hear. Instead, children become angry when they feel we are turning them into passive projects. Rather than feel like they are disappointing us, they disconnect. Early signs may be they become uncommunicative after school, stop looking parents in the eye, secretive or avoidant.
But we need to remember that unhappy stressed kids don’t learn.
Over the next few years, Lily’s insistence on not doing homework kept getting worse. To try and get to the bottom of it, my husband Anthony and I took her to see educational psychologist who found strong cognitive scores and no signs of learning difficulties.
But what the report did identify was how profoundly Lily’s self-worth had been affected. Even though I had never once told her she should be top of the class, she still felt she had to be good at everything. If she couldn’t be, she didn’t think there was any point trying at all.
It was clear despite our best efforts to support her, Lily constantly felt criticized. She was becoming defensive and resentful.
Most serious of all, by claiming she couldn’t do her homework – when she could – she was testing if my love for her was conditional on her success.
I had to face up to the painful truth that unless I took immediate action – and killed off my inner Tiger Mom – my child and I were growing apart.
So for the sake of my daughter, I realized I had to change direction and take my foot off the gas.
When her tutor rang to tell me Lily needed a break, I was delighted to agree. Since then, I have let her focus on the subjects that really matter to her – art and music – and have let her decide what direction to take them in.
I also made a deliberate effort to spend time with Lily – just the two of us – so we can simply “be” together. Now instead of trips to the museums and classical concerts, we go for walks in the park and hot chocolates.
The Difficult Journey Back
Unfortunately, over the years, an inner critic had grown up inside Lily’s head that kept telling her she was not good enough. I realized I needed to take quite deliberate steps to address that if she was to be happy with herself again.
To help her recognize and dismiss the voice that was bringing her down, I took her to see a Neuro-Linguistic Programming coach who teaches children strategies to untangle the persistent negative thoughts that undermine their self-belief – and replace them with positive ones.
Before we began, Jenny explained that Lily’s issues are not uncommon. As a teacher of 30 years experience, Jenny believes the growing pressure on children to perform from an early age is contributing to a general rise in learning anxiety. The youngest child she has helped was six.
It’s children like Lily, who don’t relish a contest, who are among the biggest casualties.
At home, some have been made to feel they are not good enough by parents or are intimidated by more academic sisters and brothers. Some may develop an inferiority complex simply because they are born into high-achieving families.
Once established, failure can also become self-reinforcing. Even when they get good marks, children like Lily still dwell on the pupil who got the higher one to support their negative views of their abilities, making it a self-perpetuating downward spiral.
It’s when children start to see this self-criticism as fact that the negative self-talk can start.
As she sat on the sofa, Jenny asked Lily if she had ever heard a nagging voice in her head that put her down. Lily looked surprised but answered that yes, she had. Asked who it was, my daughter replied: “It’s me, but the mean me.”
Asked to draw this character, Lily depicted an angry, disapproving female figure with her hands on her hips, with a mouth spouting the words “blah, blah, blah.” When asked to name her, Lily thought for a moment before coming up with the name Miss Trunch-Lily, so-called because the figure is half herself – and half the hectoring teacher from Roald Dahl’s Matilda.
Now Miss Trunch-Lily had been nailed, Jenny and Lily agreed an easy way to deal with her would be to talk back and tell her “Shut up, you idiot” one hundred times.
But that would take a long time, so Lily and Jenny came up with a quicker solution; imagining a canon which would instantly send a shower of 60 candies into her mouth so she couldn’t say another word.
Next time Lily heard her nagging voice, all she had to do was press an imaginary button and her nemesis would be silenced.
In the months that followed, Lily seemed to relax. Gradually the procrastination about homework started to vanish – and Lily was much more likely to open her books after school and quietly get on with her homework.
A Fresh New Start
We have recently come back from a week in a seaside cottage with no Internet or phone signal. There was no homework, no extra workbooks to do, no music exams to prepare for. Nor did we use our vacation as a catch-up period to prepare the girls to get ahead.
Instead my husband, my daughters and I went on long walks with our dog. We examined different types of seaweed and examined crabs in rock pools.
Back in the cottage, we sat around and read books that interested us. I let the children play upstairs for hours, not on their phones, but in long elaborate role-plays, without feeling the need to interrupt once.
I would wager that Lily and Clio learnt more about themselves – and what they are capable of – in a single week than in a whole semester at their schools where they hardly get a moment to stop and think.
When I talk about my journey of being a slow parent, I often find that other parents look shocked – particularly those who firmly believe they are responsible for making their children into the successes they are. So, I shared my journey in the book Taming the Tiger Parent: How to put your child’s well-being first in a competitive world.
Of course, for the child born with a go-getting personality, teaming up with turbo-charged parents can be a winning combination – to start with at least.
But as adults, we have to start asking – how high we can raise the bar before it’s too high for our children to jump?
After all, a bigger picture is also emerging: a rise in anxiety disorders, depression and self-harm among children who have grown up with this continual pressure – and the emergence of a generation who believe they are losers if they fail, they’ve never done enough if they win.
Even among children who succeed in this environment, educationalists are finding pushy parenting creates a drive towards perfectionism which can turn into self-criticism when these young people can’t live up to such high standards.
I’m happy that in the midst of this arms race to push our kids more and more, there are changes afoot. Around the world, parents and educators are drawing up a blue-print for an alternative.
Whether it’s slow parenting, minimalist parenting, free-range parenting – or the more bluntly named Calm the F*** Down parenting, there is recognition that we need to resist the impulse to constantly push and micro-manage.
As a mother to Lily, as well as my younger daughter, Clio, I’ve decided I don’t want to be a part of all those crushing burdens of expectations. I want to provide a relief from it.
Apart from the fact it makes children happier, it’s also so much more fun.
Now I love the fact that when Lily messes around in the kitchen making cupcakes, I no longer have to fight the urge to tell her to hurry up – and badger her to finish her homework.
Of course, not doing homework is not an option – but these days in our house the aim is to do it as quickly and efficiently as possible. If a concept is not understood, I don’t pull my hair out trying to be the teacher and trying to play ‘catch-up’. If Lily, now 12, genuinely does not understand it, I write a note to the member of the staff to explain that it may need further explanation. It’s a simple system and is working perfectly fine for us.
I like it that when she comes home from school, and I ask her, ‘How are you?’ I really mean it. It’s no longer code for: ‘What marks did you get today, darling?’ and I’m not thinking ‘Hurry up with your answer, so we can get on with your homework.’
Most of all I love the fact that I can finally appreciate Lily for the person she is now– a 12-year-old girl with an acerbic sense of humor who likes Snoopy, play-dates and kittens – and not for the person I once wanted her to be.
The 2-Minute Action Plan for Fine Parents
For our quick contemplation questions today –
- Imagine meeting your child in 20 years times. Ask them to describe their childhood. Do they describe it as magical? Or do they look back on it as a race from one after school activity and homework project to the next?
- Ask yourself what do you want for your children? When you say you want your children to be happy, what has that come to mean to you? If you really analyze it, has it drifted into being interpreted as professional success and financial acumen? Furthermore, have you come to judge success by a very narrow definition of traditional career achievement and earning power?
- Now check again. If you look around you, what do the happiest people you know have in common? Is it material goods, high-flying jobs and academic qualifications? Or is it emotional balance? If you approach the question another way, are the wealthiest people you know also the most satisfied with life?
The Ongoing Action Plan for Fine Parents
Spend some time sorting through any conflicts related to your kids not doing homework.
To start with, train your children in good habits and place time limits on how long homework should take from the start.
Ask the school how long a child should spend on each subject at night. Then you can help keep those limits in place by telling kids they can’t spend a minute more – or a minute less – than the allotted time.
Find the time of the day after school that works best for your child – either straight after arriving home or after a short break. Agree a start time every day so that the rule turns into a routine and there is less room for resistance and negotiation.
Don’t finish their homework for kids because you are desperate to get it off the evening’s to-do list. That will just mask the problem and get you dragged into a nightly conflict. Help them instead to take responsibility for their homework, while you provide guidance from the sidelines on an on-need basis.