User's Manual for Parents, Part V: Advanced Concepts Using Consequences
By Annye Rothenberg, Ph.D. 

Here’s the last section of the Users’ Manual for Parents. This one teaches some advanced concepts in applying consequences.
It puts a child on the defensive to say, “You haven't been listening to me” or “You took forever to clean up.” It’s more effective to say, “This hasn't been a good listening day” or “We need a lot of cleanup practice.” If you use the “you” version, your child feels attacked, probably won't accept your correction, and often will verbally counterattack, requiring additional consequences. You'll get better results with a non-accusatory method of correction. Your child knows you mean him.

Many children  will insist that the consequence doesn’t bother them. They might say: “I don’t care! I don’t like that dessert.” or “I didn’t want to have Ethan over anyway!” Or at the end of a time-out they might say: “I’m not coming out of time-out because I like it here!” These comments are usually bravado. Children use many ways to preserve their autonomy and dignity. Holding your child to her word or even arguing would be a mistake. It’s better to help her understand why she said what she did or to just let the statement go by, responding with a nonverbal gesture like a shrug. Ignoring your child is not recommended because it can teach her to ignore others.

Many parents assume that rewards, such as a toy, and consequences, such as taking away dessert or TV, are the complete range of strategies necessary for dealing with a child who doesn’t listen or otherwise misbehaves. But when parents rely entirely on these types of rewards and consequences, many children feel controlled but not understood, and feel resentful and emotionally more distant from the parents.
This type of parenting makes it harder for children to develop the desire and self-control to behave well. When parents rely on payoffs and penalties, this can interfere with a child’s developing a strong conscience and sense of morality. For example, when the five-year-old sees that no one is watching, he may put his finger in the cake batter, even though the parent has explained why he shouldn’t, or slip his teacher’s marker into his pocket to bring home.  He may do these things because he is not developing an internal sense of right and wrong, but is too focused on “getting” things and having things taken away from him. Rewards and consequences are necessary in child-rearing – but not sufficient. It’s more effective to use the range of tools explained in the first four parts of this Users’ Manual for Parents, which help children to feel more understood, respected, and closer to their parents. Children gain a better understanding of the role, reasons, and needs of their parents, and they become more eager to please them. It’s very important that young children learn to behave in order to please their parents. This enables children to base their emerging morality on their parents’ beliefs. Beyond the teen years, young adults start to behave to meet their own – hopefully solid -- internalized expectations, which developed because they learned early on to please their parents.
Rewards and consequences are effective, but the most successful rewards for children involve spending time with their parents. The most useful consequences involve having the child practice better behavior. And parent-child communication should include that little touch of guilt that is essential for good conscience development (for example, “I’m very disappointed and sad that you keep hiding your dirty clothes under your bed, even though you know the problems it causes for all of us…”).
Respectful consequences hasten your young child's learning as she internalizes the rules and values of your family and society. When parents become respectful, age-appropriate limit-setters and are able to utilize effective consequences, it’s easier for their children to cooperate. Parents enjoy their children and family life more when they feel self-assured and successful rather than frustrated, angry, and discouraged in their parenting. And their competence and satisfaction builds their children’s confidence and skills – things all parents want for themselves and their children.

            So there’s your Users’ Manual for Parents, Parts I through V. Raising children well can be the greatest and most worthwhile experience. This Users’ Manual is meant to help you make good decisions as you choose your path as parents and to make your path clearer and more satisfying, with outcomes you can be proud of for you and your children.Consequences are necessary in child-rearing. This article provides the information for you and your partner to consider in becoming more effective and less frustrated parents. Part V completes the Users’ Manual as it deals with some of the more advanced concepts in applying consequences successfully.

Annye Rothenberg, Ph.D., author, has been a child/parent psychologist and a specialist in childrearing and child development for more than 25 years. Her parenting psychology practice is in Emerald Hills, California. She is also on the adjunct faculty in pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Rothenberg was the founder/director of the Child Rearing parenting program in Palo Alto, California, and is the author of the award-winning books Mommy and Daddy are Always Supposed to Say Yes … Aren’t They?, Why Do I Have To?, I Like To Eat Treats,  I Don't Want to Go to the Toilet, I Want To Make Friends and I'm Getting Ready For Kindergarten. These are all-in-one books with a story for preschoolers and a manual for parents. Her new series is for elementary school childen and their parents. The first book is Why Can't I Be the Boss of Me? (2015). For more information about her books and to read her articles, visit To find out about her counseling practice and her speaker presentations, go to

Perfecting Parenting Press 2015