Warnings: Not a Consequence for Misbehavior

I recently read a blog that got me thinking…As parents (and teachers), we give warnings ALL DAY LONG!  We warn our children “If you do that, then you’re going to be in big trouble!”  “This is the last time I’m going to tell you!”  There is nothing wrong with gentle reminders (“Remember, if you hit your brother again you will have to put that toy away” or better yet “Remember to keep your hands to yourself and you can play with the Spiderman toy”); however, we must be consistent with consequences.  Meaning, we must actually follow-through with what we say.  A warning cannot continue to be followed by more warnings.  A warning only works by its association with consequences.  If a warning is only associated with further warnings, our children will have no reason to change their behavior.

It seems our reasoning behind so many warnings is likely avoidance of tantrums that occur when we do follow-through with consequences.  Or, on occasion, we don’t know what consequence to apply so we just keep hoping that the warning will do the trick.  The problem with this logic is that warnings followed by warnings don’t change behavior.  The behavior you are warning against continues to occur until you apply a consequence.  And while I admit that applying consequences may lead to tantrums, in the end the tantrums will decrease because the warning will have worked (after being consistently paired with actual consequences).  Don’t forget the positive consequences as well.  When your children respond appropriately to warnings such as “Remember to keep your hands to yourself and you can play with the Spiderman toy” then please remember Spiderman!


Contributed by:  Heather Chandler, Clinical Director-Augusta Center