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9 Strategies for setting boundaries and implementing consequences for child behaviour

Setting boundaries and consequences for your child is crucial for child development and well-being. It will ensure that they know what you expect as a parent or practitioner and it will teach them lifelong skills that they will need as they grow into adulthood in the world that the things that they say and do, do affect people and can have consequences as a result.

Establish Clear Expectations

Communicate your expectations and rules to the child, making sure that they know what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. Use simple direct language to avoid confusion.

Be Consistent

Enforce the rules across different situations and caregivers. This helps the child understand that rules apply in all circumstances not just when they are at home or at nursery.

Use positive reinforcement

Acknowledge and reward positive behaviours, offer praise and encouragement or small rewards when they follow the rules or display good behaviour. This in turn motivates the child to continue behaving well.

Set consequences in advance

Make children aware of potential consequences of breaking rules and bad behaviour beforehand, this ensure that children know what will happen as a result of their behaviour should they choose not to listen to the rules.

Ensure that consequences are proportionate

They must match the behaviour, be fair and related to the misbehavior, for example if they do not share a toy it will be taken away from them altogether not if they do not share a toy they will have no desert that day. It needs to link to the misbehaviour thats taken place and why. Avoid harsh or lenient consequences that dont align with the actions.

Natural Consequences

where possible allow the natural consequences of something to happen, allow them to see what happens naturally as a result of their behaviour. for example, being too rough with a toy and it breaks or not putting their coat on for outside play and it rains and they get soaked and cold.

Time Outs

These are only effective for certain behaviours and children who can sit for an amount of time in the same chair/area. Choose a quiet and safe space where they can spend time alone to reflect on what they have done. the time amount should be age related and brief and help them to understand why the behviour was not acceptable.

Teach problem solving skills

Help them to understand alternative behaviours and guide them in finding solutions to avoid repeating the behaviour.

Open communication

Maintain open and respectful communication with your child. discuss reasons behind your rules and consequences and encourage them to express their feelings and thoughts and listen actively to their perspective. You could also get them to make the rules and consequences with you.


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