When My Child Misbehaves: Deciding on Discipline

Revisiting ‘In the Heat of a Meltdown’


Consequences are a byproduct of behavior – at all ages. As an adult, if I run a red light while driving my car, I may be hit by another driver, or get a ticket if a police officer observed me run the red light. Both actions are a consequence of my behavior.

Families, too, implement consequences. Often they are meant to help shape and provide boundaries and safety for their family members. For example, a consequence of coming home later than curfew may be the loss of an evening out the following week! Or perhaps the consequence for staying on a cell phone past when it is lights out is the removal of the cell phone from the bedroom during the sleeping hours.

Another example is for preschoolers. If a preschooler won’t help pick up toys when playtime is over, then perhaps a favorite toy or two is removed from the toy bin for several days. This removal signals that some behavior was not followed.

The application of consequences must be followed with conversations about desired behaviors. The conversation communicates the reason for the rule or restriction. Sometimes parents have included the older kids when discussing rules and consequences. Reminders help even the youngest children to be mindful of their behavior.

The Science of Parenting team has been discussing child growth and development as it relates to guidance and discipline. Each session provides helpful research and strategies designed to support parents in their role as nurturing and loving parents.

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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