Enforcing Consequences?

Updated on November 29, 2010
J.S. asks from Worthington, MN
22 answers

How many chances do you give before enforcing consequences? For example, being naughty in a restaurant...warning was stop the behavior or we will leave...how many chances do your kids get to change the behavior before leaving? My question is not specific to restaurant behavior...but how many warnings/chances do your kids get before the consequence is enforced, whatever the situation?

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So What Happened?

Thanks for all your input! I have no problem establishing boundaries, making the expectations clear, or following through. Sometimes I think I am too strict, so was wondering what other parents do. We did leave a restaurant about 6-7 months ago, and I have not had a problem in a restaurant since...she knows that if I say she will have to leave, we will! For more severe behaviors, hitting, screaming, destructive...she does not get a warning, the consequence is immediate time out. For innappropriate behaviors, playing with fork/spoon, not doing as told, getting into things she knows she shouldn't...I typically count to 3, if I get to 3, she has a consequence enforced. Or if she is doing something, stops when told, but goes back to it fairly soon, I will tell her, this is your warning, if that happened again, this will happen..and that seems to work fairly well. Again, thanks for all your input! I don't feel I am being too strict anymore!

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answers from Seattle on

They get one warning. Then the next time the behavior happens, consequence. I can't STAND listening to a parent say over and over and over, "Now johnny, you stop that! If you don't stop right now we are leaving! Johnny, what did I say? We are going to leave! I mean it! Cut that out. Please be a good boy. I am SERIOUS...if you don't cut that out..." OMG, Just do it already!!!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Topeka on

Before you go... you need to set down the rules. If they break the rules when you get there... leave. They need to learn that you are serious and won't be ran over.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Boston on

I normally do one warning and then a consequence. But I try very hard to make sure that I give enforceable consequences. So, for example, if we were in a restaurant, I wouldn't go right to "or we'll leave" because I don't want to leave. So I'll start with "if you do that again, you will get no dessert." Or, if it's a "logical" punishment I'll say "if you stab the table with the fork again, I will take away the fork and you will have to eat with your spoon." Or "if you keep jumping in the booth, I will have to put you in a baby seat/separate chair." I try to start small so that I can give the punishment without also escalating the situation.

Good luck!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

HI J. :-)

One of the toughest things I had to learn as a parent was to actually HONOR the boundary I was trying to set! I didn't do a very good job of it most of the time.. such as: If you do this again, we will leave the restaurant... because I never really wanted to leave the restaurant and that was a consequence that was NOT good for me! So.... I warned.. and warned.. and quickly taught my daughter that my word is not something to be trusted, sort of like "crying wolf"... so when it was REALLY important to listen to what I said because the consequence was TRULY dangerous.. like walking out into the street.. she was pretty confused.

My suggestion in setting boundaries and consequences is to be SURE that you do what it is you say you are doing to do.. implement the consequence as you state it. If you want to interject... "if this happens "one more time".. then go ahead, but whatever limit you set.. STICK with it... as this will teach your child about setting boundaries and being true to your word.

Begin setting boundaries with SMALL things.. not when you are hungry and wanting to eat dinner and are supposed to walk out of the restaurant the next time the child does whatever... LOL.. find smaller less eventful times to teach about the simplicity of truth behind words, and do this from a state of neutrality.. the child will learn quickly about cause and effect.. just like the baby who was dropping food from his high chair table :-)

End suggestion: Don't set a boundary/consequence unless you are ready to live up to it the first time :-)

A. R.N., Energy Medicine Practitioner

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

One warning. They know not to behave like this when we are out anywhere. I will not ever leave a store or a restaurant because my kid is acting up. If you leave, then the kid knows he has won!

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answers from Williamsport on

I am completely baffled by the popular advice to leave locations if kids decide to act up. To me it is teaching the child that they are in charge of the family outings rather than teaching them to behave. My friend's son knows he gets to leave wherever they go if he has a tantrum, so guess what he always does whenever they go somewhere he doesnt' want to go? To this day he can't start pre school, can't go to the grocery store-the list is long.

I have 3 kids under 5, a husband who always travels, I take them with me on all of my errands, and they behave. If I was to bundle all 3 up and drive 45 minutes to the store and leave immediately because someone decided to act up, my life would be a preposterous nightmare.

My kids get a thorough explanation of how they will behave in a store, restaurant, friend's house, etc. Once inside, they get ONE calm warning to stop whatever wrong thing they may start to try and on the second warning it's straight to the bathroom for swat city. No anger on my part, it's simply their choice. This prevents any further antics. Now they don't even go beyond the first warning, and rarely act up in general since they know it will get them nowhere and they're not in the habit.

The last time I had to give consequences at the mall (about 6 months ago) to my 3 and 5 year old for running willy nilly after a warning while I stood in line with the baby and couldn't see them, they cried for about 2 minutes, and 20 minutes later, after we went back to the store where they stood quietly in line, we were all laughing and playing and eating at Subway. They havent' acted up out and about since. It's not a big deal.

Don't start leaving locations to appease your child. It's a SLIPPERY SLOPE that usually leads to doing errands without your kids which deprives you all of fun experiences.

Our kids can all eat in restaurants because A) we're firm and diligent at home during their training phase between 1 and 2, and B) we will follow thru with a warning in the restaurant and they know it. After your son catches on, he'll prefer to act well anyway, it becomes natural very quickly.

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answers from San Diego on

You must always enforce consequences. No warnings, or else they have no incentive to behave the first time. As soon as you say, "If x, then y," the second "x" happens, you must do "y." Just make sure that "y" is something you can tolerate. I never say, "We are going to leave," unless I'm absolutely prepared to do that.

This is not to say that you need to threaten a consequence on the first transgression. Obviously, circumstances are different, and context matters. But when you do warn them something is going to happen "the next time," you must follow through immediately. This is very difficult for my husband, so our son misbehaves for him far worse than he ever does for me.

What typically works for me is talking about appropriate behavior before we get to where we're going. If I know he's been in a tantrum-y phase, we talk extensively prior to getting there: "If you have a tantrum, you will be put in timeout. If you have a tantrum after one timeout, we will leave. What can you do instead of having a tantrum if you are frustrated?" So he knows what his options are, and he knows what will happen if he makes a bad choice.

Someone described it to me this way. When your child was a baby, how many times did you find him scrunched all the way to the edge of the crib when you peeped in on him? Children want to know where the boundaries are. It makes them feel secure. It is our job as their parents to provide those limits for them. Imagine that a child is completely free to do whatever he wants. What a whole lot of pressure for one little person: to make the choices that will keep him safe, healthy, liked, and loved. It is too much. They need us to take responsibility for them while they are young so they can learn to take responsibility for themselves when they get older.

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answers from San Diego on

I have no idea why consequences are an easy one for me. Do it again we're leaving. My girl knows I mean it because I ALWAYS follow through. So one chance to choose how she will act, she does it again, done. We have very little problem because she knows once and that's it. If you let it go on and on, it will always go on and on and who wants that? Kids want to know what the rules are because then they can follow them. Give an inch, then the boundary expands by an inch. You're also teaching them how to set their own boundaries, how to discipline themselves which is really the goal anyway: )

I also try to yes a lot. I think that helps, so when I say no I hope she knows its for a very good reason.

Hope this helps: )

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Cincinnati on

If the behavior is something where the kids know better, they get one warning. If it is something we just told them about, probably two warnings (depending on how severe the behavior is - hitting and violence in general doesn't get a warning at all).

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answers from San Francisco on

Generally speaking the 3 strike rule works well for me, which is mirrored in 1-2-3 magic. Although I do think that situations may call for different chances. Dangerous or extremely rude behavior--stop now or else. Lightly annoying restaurant behavior (tapping his spoon, playing with her food)--3 chances for sure. 2-year-old-- may need all 3 chances because self-control at that age is pretty weak.

I also wouldn't make leaving the restaurant the first consequence. That's an absolute last resort in my book, because I wouldn't want to punish myself and the rest of the family too -- more like lost privileges or treats for that child.

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answers from Chicago on

We follow 123 Magic. So if we make it to 3, we leave.



answers from Omaha on

This really depends on your own tolerance level. We give one warning and state the consequence. Then we stick to our rules. This is best. It's not always easy to reinforce because it requires the parent to do things that aren't always pleasant, but it really works.
When we go to restauants or grocery stores we state the consequence of bad behavior (and give one reminder) and if we have to we bring the child to the car to sit for time out or we leave all together. I don't like leaving because if the child wants to leave then he's gotten his way. You jus have to think of something unpleasant.
Also, what works well for our 3 yr old is to offer rewards for good behavior. This works really well for him.
Good luck!



answers from Minneapolis on

one warning-thats it...no counting,,,etc..the more warnings you give-the more they push the boundaries-the bigger job you have-really its ok to say NO!!!...your the parent-not the friend.as a single working parent-my kids were pretty much on a short leash.exhubby was disneyland daddy-so my work was cut out for me.


answers from Sioux City on

None, they stop the behavior or I leave. I have found the less chances, the more serious they believe you are.



answers from Milwaukee on

Kids will take as many warnings as you are willing to give them! If you're comfortable with giving more than 1 then you'll always give more than one. I think younger kids deserve more chances, but once you're sure they know right from wrong on a specific issue it's in their best interest - and yours - to minimize chances. I've found that I only need to jump right to consequences a couple of times before they get the message. If I give multiple warnings they know they have room to push.....


answers from Santa Fe on

I count to 3 and if the behavior is not gone by the count of 3 then they get the consequence. I let them know loud and clear first what the consequence will be if I get to 3. For my 6 yr old son it is usually no video games for the rest of the week. Since he knows we mean it (from having to take away video games in the past) he always does what I say before I get to #3.



answers from Sheboygan on

If you want your kids to listen to you in the future...one, two warnings at the most. Just make sure you threaten things you can, and are willing, to follow-through on. For example, it would probably take a lot for you to get up and leave the restaurant. Going to the car for a time-out would be easier to enforce. We've done that before...take my son to the car for a time-out. I won't say a word to him and won't acknowledge anything he says until his time is up. Or one of us will finish up our food early and then take him out to the car. Whomever is left with our daughter and will take their time finishing up...my son has gotten very upset by this but it has helped his behavior tremendously!
Good luck!



answers from San Antonio on

I use the counting method...they are given the warning they are doing something that isn't desirable. They keep doing it I say "one", they keep doing it "two", they keep on "three" and then they are disciplined. It gives them a chance to think and stop before instant discipline...

If they start up again within just a few minutes I pick up counting where I left off...if it has been 30 minutes or more I start over again at one...I rarely even get to two, because my kids know I will follow through with no hesitation. No emotion or anger just consequences.


answers from Biloxi on

It depends on the behavior, but for me, it usually just one.

When mine was little I would give a warning first and explain the consequences if the behavior did not stop. If he continued - then the consequences kicked in.

Now that he is 14 he knows the rules and the consequences kick in with no warning. I.e., I got an email from his teacher about dropping grades in class. I simple took all his game remotes, his DS, blocked the computer and unplugged the TV *before* he got home from school. I was out when he got home, and he didn't even mention it when he sent me a text to tell me he was home. He knew what he did wrong and was not surprised to come home and find his privileges suspended.

If you threaten consequences you must follow through with them.



answers from Kansas City on

Well ideally, I only give 1 chance. Sometimes I get lax and I ask more than once and then I ended up getting upset and yell or whatever and then I realize that I need to go back to what I know. It's certainly not easy, and I am certainly not perfect, but I will say that when I follow the "rules" I've set for myself, life is a lot happier in our house! I don't believe in yelling or spanking and although I have yelled, I feel horrible about it and realize it just isn't the way to make change. So, I would suggest finding a discipline system that works for you and stick to it. Give one chance and then go to time out or whatever. Sometimes there are not chances given, like if my daughter hits or says something really mean then she goes straight to time out b/c we've discussed it, etc. I feel that when kids know what to expect, they behave a lot better. Just my 2 cents!



answers from Minneapolis on

I haven't read the responses, and it sounds like you have things figured out, but I can't say enough about the book 1-2-3 Magic. It's right up your alley and will totally answer these questions for you.



answers from Rapid City on

I worked in a restaurant for years and I can tell you that playing with their fork or spoon is pretty normal and much better then letting them play with the sugar packets that are on the table. It is boring to be in a sit down restaurant waiting for food in a fast food world for little ones. Most restaurants have crayons and color pages, we also bring our granddaughter other little things she likes to play with. Now she is 4 and she loves playing tic tac toe on the placemats. Sometimes it is easier to entertain the child then expect them to sit like an adult and get after them when they don't.

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