Crafting Effective Consequences

Crafting Effective Consequences

By Jan Flowers, M. Ed,. TJS Learning Specialist

Jan Flowers has been a teacher for 25 years, 18 of those at The Joy School. In February 2018, she presented on the topic of Consistency, Choices and Consequences at the Early Childhood Methodist Conference. Read on for Mrs. Flowers' best practices for giving effective consequences, which she accumulated throughout her career.

Like all parents and teachers, I want to help my kids be successful. But if they do something wrong, I need to hold them accountable. That's where consequences come into play. Giving the right consequence to a child can be a daunting task. Hopefully the tips, guidelines and examples below will make it easier!

Assign Logical Consequences

Some consequences just make sense. For example, if a child won't eat his lunch, you can't force him to do so. Eating his lunch can't be the consequence for not eating his lunch. It's not logical. Instead, suggest something like, "If you don't eat your lunch today, you don't get to pick where we eat tonight."

If a child knocks down a playmate while running, it wouldn't be logical to give her extra chores as a consequence. It's better if the consequence is to check on the child she knocked over to see if he is okay and sit with him until he is okay.

If a child uses disrespectful words, he loses his phone for the night. Tell him, "You can't talk to your friends that way."

Sometimes when a child is talking during class, I'll say, "You're interrupting class, so you're taking up my teaching time. Do you want me to take up your free time?"

Use Currency Kids Care About

You should try to meet kids where they are with consequences. One way to do so is to determine your child's consequence currency, which is something a child really likes. What would your child truly care about if it was taken away? Always have this in your head.

Restate the Reason

Children need to understand why they are receiving a consequence. If your student has trouble verbalizing what led to the consequence, prompt him with a question like, "Why are you having to do this?"

Present a United Front

To ensure consequences aren't confusing and don't lead to more frustration and emotional outbursts, it's important for adults to present a united front. Talk to every adult in the house and your teachers at school, so you're on the same page. If your child comes to you after your spouse already gave a consequence, say, "I agree with Dad's consequence. Would you like us to come up with a new one? It's not going to be as good."

Make Consequences Enforceable

Does your child need her computer for school? If so, you can't completely ground her from it. Also, consequences that are more than a week long are hard to enforce. Your child will forget why she's in trouble, and she'll be angry with you throughout the time period.

Give Yourself Time

Sometimes it's hard to know exactly what to do when a child misbehaves. If you are unsure, say, "You know what? I am so upset about this that I don't even know what to do right now. Give me some time to think about this, and I'll let you know what we're going to do." Waiting and uncertainty scare kids.

You can also have your child help come up with a consequence. Sometimes they're too hard on themselves. If that happens, help them come up with a more logical solution.

Let It Go

When it's over, it's over. When I give a child a consequence, I tell them and their parents that I'm not going to bring it up again. If a child comes home and talks about something that happened at school, that's fine. But a parent doesn't need to chastise their child for something he's already been punished for.

Similarly, if Dad handles a situation, Mom doesn't need to address it again when she gets home. Rehashing a situation just riles a child up again.

Real Life Examples of Consequences

The best way to come up with effective consequences is to have experience dealing with them. Over time, you'll have a treasure trove of ideas.

Below are some examples of real behavioral situations parents, fellow educators and I have experienced—in the classroom and at home—and ideas for appropriate consequences.


Disrespectful Language

When a child is being disrespectful in the classroom, I call out the behavior directly to make sure they know what they're doing is wrong, stating, "You're being rude and you're not to talk to me like that. Would you like to go tell the principal what you just said?"

Rest Spot

Often the term "consequences" is associated with disciplinary action. However, some consequences aren't punitive as much as they are helpful for all involved. Take the concept of a "rest spot" for example. It's a spot in your classroom where children can go when things get too intense, like a beanbag chair in the corner. If a child is overwhelmed, ask them to go to the rest spot. Make sure you don't call it "time out," as that engenders negative feelings. When a child needs a moment, tell her, "Go to the rest spot, then come back over when you feel ready."

Calls to Parents

Calling parents is a consequence that can be positive or negative depending on the situation. Sometimes you have to let parents know about an issue that happened in class. I try not to do anything negative with parents online, so instead of emailing, I call. Letting parents know about behavior can be a meaningful incentive for a child.

If you have a child who's often in trouble, be on the lookout for positive behaviors to reinforce. For example, if you see a child who doesn't pay attention to social cues interacting well with others, take a picture, then say, "I just saw you doing this. May I send this to your mom?" Send the picture to the child's parent and say, "I just want you to see how well he's playing with his friends." Some parents never get a good call or email.

Personal Space

If you're having a personal space issue in your classroom, one strategy is to tell students they should get really close together, and see how long it's comfortable. They will want their space fairly quickly.

If it's a recurring problem, have students put their hands on their heads or in their pockets when lining up. A great way to help kids visualize personal space is to have them stand inside small hoola hoops to demonstrate how close you should stand to your friend. Show everyone instead of just calling out one child. Teach kids how to ask for personal space when they're not getting it. If you teach them together, they have a shared understanding and vocabulary.

Another example is to liken personal space to a bubble. Say, "You don't want to pop someone's bubble. What happens when we play with bubbles? We pop them, and then we're sad." Reinforce positive behaviors with words or a small reward, like saying, "Wow! You've really been watching your bubble today," or giving them a bottle of bubbles.


While some of the previous examples may benefit parents, the situations below are specific to consequences at home.

Things You Don't See Happen

Two kids are in the back room fighting over video game controllers. If you ask what happened, you get two different stories. If that happens, both kids lose video game privileges. It's not fair to the one who didn't do it, but they'll stop coming back to you with this problem. You can also tell them they need to handle this on their own. Help them come up with strategies. Ask, "How can you keep from arguing about this so I don't have to get involved?"


If your kids are arguing in the car on the way to a restaurant, you can't force them to stop bickering. Instead, come up with a consequence. "You're arguing, so we're going home." If that's your only night out, say, "Next week we'll get a babysitter for you and we'll go out to dinner alone. Maybe the following week you can join us again."


You can't force a child to stop having a tantrum. Instead, give him options. Explain to him, "You need to go upstairs. You can't scream and cry in the hallway. You can stay and be calm with us or you can go upstairs." If the child refuses, offer options like, "You can go upstairs quickly, or I will help you go upstairs." If helping is making it worse in this situation, offer different options like, "Apparently you need to have time by yourself. Where would you like time by yourself? Here, or in your room?"

Timing and recording tantrums helps kids understand what they're really like in those moments. Take a video of the child throwing a tantrum, show the child the video, tell the child how long he threw a fit for and ask what he thinks about it.

Use Teachers

Remember the tip to call parents? Well, the reverse work as well. Kids don't want to be in trouble at school. In fact, Joy School parents have told us they found success using teachers as a tactic. "I'm going to tell Mrs. Flowers about this" can stop the bad behavior sometimes.

Keep in Mind

My final tip on consequences: if you let yourself get upset, your child won. They're pushing your buttons. If you escalate, you're never going to win. Temper your consequences with love. Know that your kids wouldn't act this way if they knew how it was affecting the people they love.

Children who have consequences are set up better for success. They learn that their actions affect other people.

*This article originally appeared in the Summer 2018 edition of KeyNotes, an annual publication of The Joy School.

Jan Flowers

About the Author

Jan Flowers is from White Deer, a small town in the Texas Panhandle. She has lived in Houston since 1985. Jan earned a Bachelor of Science in Community Health from the University of Houston and her Master's degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. She began her teaching career at The Parish School, taught preschool and the bridge class at St. Luke's Day School for several years, and did private tutoring for several years. She became familiar with The Joy School when her nephew, Michael, became a student here. Jan has taught for more than 15 years at The Joy School and loves every minute. She feels the students, parents and coworkers are fabulous. Jan has been married to her husband Larry for more than two decades. They have two dogs, Dahlia and Lucie. Jan and Larry love going to Maine in the summer.

Degrees Held:

Bachelor of Science in Health from University of Houston

Master of Education from University of St. Thomas

More Stories from TJS

Middle School Meet-Ups: Nerf Wars

Recently, our middle school students had the opportunity to attend our first in-person middle school meet-up of the year, a nerf war, on the TJS playground. Middle school meet-ups offer students the ability to practice social skills in a fun, real-life way, so it's a true JOY to offer these events in-person again. Read through this Q&A blog post with Program Director Elyse Trusell to learn more about the unique benefits of our middle school meet-ups for students, how we're keeping students safe at these events and plans for future meet-ups.

#JoyFromAfar: A Look at Online Learning with Christina Medina

In this #JoyfromAfar blog post, Christina Medina, Learning Specialist, explains how she developed an online learning program that worked best for her students, striking a balance between providing social opportunities with learning opportunities through live and on-demand videos and giving students chances to have fun while learning, even at a distance.

#JoyFromAfar: Supporting Families Through a Virtual Admissions Process

In this #JoyFromAfar blog post, Director of Enrollment Management Rob Wise discusses how the admissions team has adjusted their process due to COVID-19 and continues to provide a virtual experience that allows them to understand prospective families deeply and build relationships with them while also providing opportunities for families to remotely assess the School and fit.

#JoyFromAfar: Re-engineering Instruction During COVID-19

In our #JoyFromAfar series, we discuss The Joy School's transition to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this blog post, learn about how TJS Learning Specialist Kathy Matlage worked remotely with the parent of one of her students to build a document camera, a much-needed resource for a student who was having success using manipulatives to understand math concepts in class before the school closure.

Coffee Talks with the Speech-Language Pathologists

Our speech-language team serves a very important role at The Joy School supporting teachers and leading specials classes for students called Language and Cognitive Development classes. To help build relationships with parents and provide strategies for parents to use at home that complement strategies that they're teaching in their specials classes, our speech-language team hosts coffee talks for parents. Read on to learn more!

Nurse's Notes: Preventing the Flu This Flu Season

In this edition of Nurses Notes, Nurse Mary explains ways that you and your family can prevent getting the flu this year. She also describes a campaign she is working on at The Joy School to help students understand the importance of proper hand hygiene and the role it plays in preventing the spread of illness.

Education Vocabulary: The Basics of Scaffolding

In this post, we discuss scaffolding with Andrea Dorr, our Transition Coordinator and former math teacher, to help you better understand this term and help you visualize how it's used in our classrooms. We also explain the integral role scaffolding plays as Andrea evaluates students' readiness to transition into other schools.

Summer Learning at The Joy School

Summer programs at The Joy School are a great way to bridge the gap between school years in a relaxed environment, and for younger students, summer programs are a great way to prepare for their first year of school. Learn more about The Joy School summer programs by reading our most recent blog post!

#WhoCaresIDo Global Challenge: Students Standing Against Bullying

Ms. Burden's fourth and fifth grade students participated in the #WhoCaresIDo Challenge - a global challenge that encourages young people to stand against bullying and stand up for inclusion and kindness. Learn more about the art projects they completed and submitted in our most recent post!

Crafting Effective Consequences

Jan Flowers, Learning Specialist, explains how to effectively use a variety of different types of consequences, a topic she presented on at the 2018 Early Childhood Methodist Conference.

The Language of Math

Summer Erskine, Learning Specialist, explains how she uses the CPA Method (Concrete, Pictorial and Abstract) in her classroom to teach math.

All About Asthma

The winter season is upon us, and with it comes cooler weather. This may trigger an asthma flare-up. You might be asking yourself, what is asthma? How can we prevent it? Read on to learn what asthma is, and what you can do prevent asthma attacks from happening.

Alumni Update!

Shout out to Zach Johnson, TJS alumnus who is now a 3rd degree black belt!

Alumni Update!

TJS alumnus Charlie just "signed" at National Signing Day to run cross country and track!

One Gift Opens Up a World of Play

When we received the wonderful news that an alumni family made an anonymous major gift to The Joy School for our outdoor space, the AEIOU (Association for the Evaluation & Improvement of Outdoor Utilization) jumped into action.

The Lessons I Learned on the Mountaintop

Sarah Burden, Speech-Language Pathologist, shares an adventure that pushed her out of her comfort zone and challenged her physically, mentally and emotionally more than ever before.

Adult Alumni Happy Hour!

Share a drink with us, on us. Gather with your old friends, teachers, and administrators while we share stories and catch up.

Cardboard Arcade

Our 5th graders participated in the Global Cardboard Challenge this year, creating a real-life arcade out of mostly recycled materials for our students and parents to enjoy! Here they are with some of their creations.

Alumni Takeover Family Fun Night

Thanks to all the alumni who came to visit us at Family Fun Night! We are so lucky to have you and can't wait to see all you accomplish!

Alumni Athletes

We are so proud of these alumni! Shout outs to these athletes for making time for their passions.

Fall Alumni Visitors

We are overwhelmed by the number of alumni who came to visit TJS already this fall semester! Here are some of the friendly faces we were so glad to see