• Ann Kaplan

Consequences & Punishments: What's the diff & who cares?

Updated: Jan 30, 2020

Pop Quiz: Punishment or Consequence: Mom says no dessert because kiddo didn't brush their teeth.

When I ask this question in classes, most people say something like, "Who cares? The outcome is the same - no treats. Call it whatever you want."

Or, my favorite response of all time: "Consequence is just a hipster word for punishment so parents don't feel bad bringing down the hammer." Hot take.

Practically all the time, the actions we take with our kids could go either way, and that feels really confusing. If you're taking away screen time, what makes it a consequence vs. a punishment? Does it really matter...or is that hipster-negging mom right - they're all the same?

I think you know where I'm going with this. Consequences are not punishments and it matters a lot which ones we use. Here's why:


  • Weaken relationships between mom and kid (anger and resentment).

  • Encourage kids to think about others being 'mean' (blame and defensiveness).

  • Help kids think, "I'm bad." (insecurity and shame)

  • Foster retaliation and defiance.

  • Lower the odds that kids will think more or differently in the future.

  • Rarely improve behavior in the long run


  • Strengthen relationship between mom and kid (unconditional love and belief).

  • Encourage kids to think about themselves and their power over their lives.

  • Help kids think, "I can do better." (self esteem and responsibility)

  • Foster cooperation

  • Up the odds of future thought and behavior change.

  • Almost always improve behavior, quickly.

Put simply, punishments don't work and consequences do.

How can we stay in the consequence camp? It's all in the delivery! The words we say and the way we say them are entirely what determines which camp our discipline strategies fall into. A calm, compassionate and empowering statement like, "Treats are for kids who brush. You're the boss of your body and I'll love you no matter what," is light years away from yelling in frustration, "Go brush your teeth or no treats for you!"

A calm, compassionate delivery is the secret sauce that makes everything else work, which is a real cosmic joke since it's the hardest part and the thing we mess up the most.

A calm, compassionate delivery is the secret sauce that makes everything else work, which is a real cosmic joke since it's the hardest part and the thing we mess up the most. Be honest - when was the last time you lovingly, smilingly, handed your kid the perfect consequence, without a trace of sarcasm? It might seem impossible, but I promise you can get there.

And any of my clients will tell you, the feeling when your kid devises the most creative and mind blowing misbehavior and you don't even blink before blasting them with a Care-Bear Stare of love + consequence is intoxicating. You can ride that high all day.

I want to give you that high!

I am leading a FREE online training that will teach you:

1. How to keep yourself in the consequence camp so your kids' behavior improves FAST

2. How to stay calm and loving against even the most heinous of misbehaviors

You will finish your training with hope and belief in yourself and your family, because you will have a clear direction forward.

Register and become a MASTER of natural consequences:

Breaking The Cycle of Frustrated Parenting

I'm teaching this class 3 times in the next week, so you can pick whatever works best for you, and the first chance to attend is THIS SUNDAY (right before the Super Bowl)!

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© 2018 by Ann Kaplan