Parenting with Consequences or Currency

Parenting with consequences or with currency as Dr Phil likes to put it.

In his book, Family First - Dr Phil provides you the parent with 7 tools for parenting. I highly recommend reading his book and learning about all these tools and how you should use them.

In this article we are going to talk about Tool 4 - Parenting with Currency or I like to call it parenting with consequences.

The concept behind this is very simple:


This simple statement has a scientific basis and behavioral psychology or behaviorism is a major field in psychology field in psychology. The fathers of behavioral psychology and or learning are Pavlov, Thorndike and Skinner.

Changes in behavior (i.e. learning) follow the Law of Effect. E.L. Thorndike defined this law which says: "behavior that is followed by satisfying consequences will be more likely to be repeated and behavior that is followed by unsatisfying consequences will be less likely to be repeated"

The concepts are simple.

Applying these concepts is not as simple.

In his book, Dr Phil takes 28 pages to cover this tool. So, I will not be able to cover it in that depth here. I will provide you with the basics, and would encourage you to read books such as Dr Phil's Family First or "Kids are Worth It" By Barbara Coloroso - which is the book I learned parenting by consequences from!!

Basically, behaviors can have two types of consequences - one is a natural consequence and the other is a logical consequence. Natural consequences result from the one's own actions. Logical consequence is also a result of behavior, but is imposed by others.

So, when it comes to potty training, the behavior of sitting on the potty chair and trying to go in the potty will have a natural consequence of going in the potty and not in the training pants. The natural consequence may take a while to surface and may not have the same "satisfying consequence" to the child as it does to the parent. So, as the parent, you will apply logical consequences to behaviors that will help guide your child in his potty learning.

As your child practices the behavior of sitting on the potty, he experiences a logical consequence for this behavior - which is a reward from his parent. The reward may take the form of verbal and physical praise i.e. words of encouragement and hugs & kisses or stickers on a potty training chart or whatever you the parent decides on for a reward. Either way, your child will likely repeat the behavior if he finds the consequence satisfying.

The behavior of a potty accident i.e. child urinating in his training pants instead of the potty has the natural consequence of wet pants. The wet pants are enough of an "unsatisfying consequence" for some children, that they will try not to wet their pants and will try and urinate in the potty.

This is however not the case for all children. For some children wet pants are just a consequence. They are neither satisfying nor unsatisfying - so for such a child - this natural consequence will have not impact on his behavior.

So, for a parent for whom wet pants are an "unsatisfying consequence", the parent has make the child also experience an "unsatisfying consequence", so that they child will be less likely to repeat this behavior.

One possible logical consequence is to make your child do practice the desired behavior i.e. simulate what he would do if he needed to go potty. Your child would simulate late the desired behavior by doing practice runs back and forth to the potty chair.

Practicing the desired behavior reinforces for the child what is expected from him and also helps build muscle memory. It also provides enough of an "unsatisfying consequence", that your child will choose not to repeat the behavior once he knows how to hold it long enough to get to the potty chair!

So, parenting by consequences or parenting with currency is a style of parenting that:

Encourage and rewards "desired" behaviors, thus creating more "satisfying consequences" that will cause these "desired" behaviors to be repeated.


Imposing logical consequences on "Undesired" behaviors so create more "unsatisfying consequence" that will then cause the "undesired" behavior to be less likely be repeated.

I personally started using the technique when the boys were very small. I listened and learned many of these techniques from Barbara Coloroso and her book "Kids are worth it". These ideas and concepts were reinforced when I used the Potty Training in One Day method to potty train both my boys.

I continue to use this method. My boys are now 14 and 11 and it still works. My 14 is getting to be very social and every time he want to go somewhere with his friends - the answer is yes you can but right after your room is clean or your laundry is done or dishwasher has been get the picture!!

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