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 online or at any teacher’s 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 a preschool song on repeat 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
- Dress the lawn. My mother’s tactic for getting my sister and me to pick up our rooms was to put our clothes on the front lawn. After a few warnings, if our clothes weren’t put away, she’d pile them in a basket and they’d get tossed into the grass, bushes, and trees. She only had to do it to me once! – Ann
- 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. 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
- Zip the lips. My sons struggle with chewing with their mouths closed. They get one warning at dinner. After that, they have to hold their lips together while they chew. It’s just uncomfortable enough to annoy them, but it also trains their mouths to stay closed. – Sue
- 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 Correction by 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.