Taking Away Privileges for Punishment in Parenting

By Tamara Runzel
Withholding privileges is one way to discipline your child.
Withholding privileges is one way to discipline your child.

Disciplining children is a tough job. You have to take many factors into consideration, including age, temperament and misbehavior. You can choose from a number of techniques when it comes to disciplining your child. One choice is taking away privileges as a form of discipline. It involves your child giving up something he likes when he chooses not to cooperate. Taking away privileges is effective if you use the technique correctly.

Age Recommendations

If you choose to take away privileges, you need to consider your child’s age. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), taking away privileges has little to no effect on infants and toddlers. Other organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), don’t put age limits on taking away privileges, but recommend immediately withholding the privilege if your child is younger than age 6 or 7, because younger children won’t connect the behavior with the consequence if it’s not immediate. KidsHealth.org recommends taking away privileges as one of the most effective discipline techniques for children 13 years and older.


It’s important to discuss the rules and consequences ahead of time so there are no misunderstandings when you take away a privilege. With older children, consider setting up rules and boundaries together for homework, curfew, friends, and TV and computer time beforehand. Make rules for younger children very basic. For example, you might tell your 4-year-old, “If you don't pick up your toys, you may not play a game on mommy’s computer.” You might choose to give younger kids one verbal warning to remind them of a rule before taking away a privilege.


Consider a few factors to make sure the privilege you take away is effective. You need to take away something your child likes. For a child who prefers to spend time on the computer or hanging out with friends and doesn’t care about TV, taking away TV isn’t effective. You would take away computer time or time with friends, instead. Only take away something your child wants, not something they need such as a meal. Try to relate the privilege you take away to the misbehavior. For example, if your child didn’t finish his homework because he was watching TV, take away TV time. Make sure you can follow through on the privilege you take away. If, in the heat of the moment, you say, “You’re never going to see your friends again,” that might be a hard -- and unfair -- consequence to keep.


When it comes time to take away a privilege, enforce the consequence as soon as possible, especially with younger children. Remind your child why you’re taking away the privilege and the importance of the rule that has been broken. For example, if a teen came home past curfew, remind her that the curfew is in place so you know when to expect her home and so you don’t have to worry. Remind older children that they helped you come up with the rules and discuss whether they still think they’re fair. If you notice a pattern of misbehavior, try to figure out what might be causing it, such as an argument with a friend or a bad day at school.

Earning Privileges

Consider letting children earn increased privileges such as a later curfew, more TV or computer time or an extra story when they behave well. Positive encouragement goes a long way in reinforcing desired behaviors.

About the Author

Tamara Runzel has been writing parenting, family and relationship articles since 2008. Runzel started in television news, followed by education before deciding to be a stay at home mom. She is now a mom of three and home schools her two oldest children. Runzel holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication from University of the Pacific.