Examples of Negative Punishment in ABA Therapy

ABA Therapy Negative Punishment

Examples of Negative Punishment in ABA Therapy

Negative punishment can be incredibly effective: People will likely change their behavior if you take something away from them that they enjoy. Although this form of discipline is often difficult to implement, it’s important to understand that negative punishment is a way to hold people accountable for their behavior, so, in the end, it is positive for everyone involved.  


There are many forms of negative punishment, and certain ones are more effective than others depending on the situation. In this day and age, taking away a person’s phone will likely lead to an improvement in their behavior for example. Within the world of Applied Behavioral Analysis, negative punishment techniques can be effective tools in client work. 

Why is Negative Punishment Effective?

Time Out ABA Negative Punishment

This form of punishment is tremendously effective because the individual who faces consequences will associate the absence of the item they love with their poor behavior. For this reason, they are likely to change their ways. This won’t usually happen all at once, but, as they begin to realize that the consequences are consistent, they will probably adjust their behavior.  


Negative punishments are essential in many areas of society, including the classroom, law enforcement, and businesses. They can be an excellent way to maintain firm boundaries when you are running a company, teaching a class, or driving down the road: Consequences, when implemented fairly across the board, make the world a safer place for everyone involved.  

The Importance of Remaining Consistent

It’s important to note that negative punishment is only effective if it is implemented consistently. For instance, if a student answers his phone on Monday and you take it away, but then you let him scroll through his Facebook feed on Friday, he probably won’t be motivated to follow your rules. Instead, he’ll keep testing you because he knows he can. In order for this method of punishment to actually work, you must take away the kid’s phone every single time he uses it in class, so he understands that his behavior is absolutely unacceptable.  

Shame Versus Guilt

When someone does something bad, it’s important that they are held accountable for their behavior. However, it’s also essential that they understand that you are not telling them they themselves are a bad person, but simply stating that they need to behave differently. This will lead them to question their actions instead of their worth as human beings, which has proven to be quite effective in many cases: Shame is feeling like there is something wrong with you as an individual while guilt is feeling bad about your behavior

Autism & Negative Punishment


As a clinician, it can be challenging to provide consequences to someone on the autism spectrum. While physical discipline is never the answer, negative punishment can be an effective method to enforce boundaries when other methods have failed. Negative punishments deliver consequences for inappropriate behavior as part of the learning experience. Clients on the autism spectrum  often struggle to understand what is and is not acceptable behavior and its our job to help them. 


In ABA therapy, negative punishment is used to decrease an individual’s inappropriate behavior. It is of the utmost importance to only implement these techniques along with positive reinforcement: You want your client to understand what they’re doing wrong, but you also want them to know what they’re doing right. Furthermore, negative punishment techniques should only be used when multiple reinforcement strategies have become ineffective. 

ABA Therapy & Negative Punishment Techniques

ABA List of Negative Punishments

As an ABA clinician working with clients it’s important to be empathetic while also providing structure and feedback  when necessary to enforce good boundaries. There are many procedures that are  effective. 

Negative Practice

If your client is stomping on the floor, they must do so over and over again until they’re completely exhausted. For example, you may want to ask them to engage in this behavior at least three times. 

Response Blocking

In this case, your client may be playing with their hair frequently. As a form of negative punishment, you’ll want to have them tie up their hair in a ponytail and wear gloves so that they have trouble engaging in this type of behavior. 

Restitutional Over-Correction

In this case, you would ask your client to repair the damage they’ve done. For instance, if someone throws a pack of cards on the floor, you would ask them to pick them up and put them back in the box.

Time Outs

In order to implement this technique, you’ll want to give your client a “time out from a reinforcement opportunity.” In this case, you’re removing the opportunity for your client to earn a reinforcement. You will want to use this one cautiously: The last thing you want to do is engage in negative reinforcement. 


It’s important to note that clients may not change their behavior immediately: These are often ingrained patterns, particularly in the case of someone on the autism spectrum, and it is essential to practice patience with your clients. Clinicians must strike a balance between being empathetic and patient while also consistently enforcing boundaries. 

This post is for informational purposes only and is not meant to be used in lieu of practitioners own due diligence, state and federal regulations, and funders’ policies. 

Need Help Putting the Pieces of Your Practice Together?

NPAWorks by CodeMetro has all the revenue cycle and practice management tools ABA practices like yours need. Our scheduling and billing features lead the industry.
Share on Social
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

© Copyright 2022. All Rights Reserved.