How to Make a Consequence Chart to Improve Your Kid’s Behavior

For about a year now, we've been dealing with a little bit of, shall we say, troublesome behavior in our home. Apparently, age nine is the new 15 and all that. Because the level of sass in our home went up quite considerably about the same time our oldest daughter hit third grade. 

And to be honest with you, I wasn't handling it all too well. Nothing seemed to be working to “get through” to her and none of our disciplinary methods seemed to be working either. I was incredibly frustrated, my husband was incredibly frustrated, and my daughter was incredibly frustrated. Kids want direction and they want some guidance for their behavior, I know that logically, but nothing I set out for her seemed to connect. I was feeling like such a failure that I even went to therapy and talked about it there. I got some helpful tips and pointers, which helped for a little while, but then it felt like we were ending right back where we started. 

Also, I was so confused. My daughter was a very typical “Type A” firstborn girl. She thrived on rules, loved the routine of school, and would constantly come home excited to tell me about how high she scored on the behavior chart at school that day. I couldn't figure out how on earth she could be so excited about her behavior at school and seemingly not care the moment she got home. 

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After one particularly taxing afternoon, I finally decided to try a simple solution. I thought over our main points with our children, which were 1) talking back to Mom & Dad 2) siblings being mean to one another 3) not listening when a parent requests that something be done.

And I realized that I finally knew what our problem was. There was no rhyme or reason to the consequences for certain behaviors in our home. On one occasion, my husband may punish my daughter with a chore if she talked back. On another day, she may get screen time taken away. And on still another, she may lose a play date. We were doling out too many consequences on the fly in an attempt to curb our children's behavior. Even we, the parents, couldn't keep up. No wonder our children were resisting!

consequence chart
Image via Chaunie Brusie

So I decided right then and there to try to change things. I went down to the computer and made up a simple visual consequence chart. Our problem was not that our children were “bad” or that we were “bad” parents. Our problem was that no one had ever spelled out exactly 1) What the rules in our house are and 2) What the consequences would be if those rules were not followed. It was so simple, that I felt incredibly foolish I hadn't done it sooner. 

I made my consequence chart in a Word Document with three rows and three columns. I typed out three actions and what the consequences would be if the child chose that action. Now, I only made three because I wanted to keep the chart incredibly simple and not overwhelm the kids. For fun, I also added the behavior “Making Good Choices” with a consequence of “Happy Family!” Because ain't that the truth? 

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And wouldn't you guess it? The consequence chart worked immediately. Instead of dishing out useless warnings left and right to my kids, all I had to do was refer to the chart the next time there was an inappropriate behavior. My children could no longer claim they “didn't know.” They couldn't pretend not to care about a consequence. It was all clear as day, posted to our fridge. And I no longer had to be the “bad” guy punishing my kids, because they were clearly choosing the behavior, knowing what the consequence would be. 

I couldn't believe what a difference a simple three-column consequence chart made in our lives. And I couldn't believe that it took me so long to do it. We are still going strong and I can see now that our biggest mistake was not being consistent with our rules as parents and not clearly connecting a consequence to a behavior. It was that simple all along. If you're struggling with certain behaviors with your kids, I'd definitely recommend giving a consequence chart a try. 

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How to Make a Consequence Chart to Improve Your Kid’s Behavior

Chaunie Brusie is a coffee mug addict, a labor and delivery nurse turned freelance writer, and a young(ish) mom of four. She is the author of "Tiny Blue Lines: Preparing For Your Baby, Moving Forward In Faith, & Reclaiming Your Life In An Unplanned Pregnancy" and "The Moments That Made You A Mother". She also runs Passion Meets Practicality, a community of tips + inspiration for work-at-home mothers. ... More

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