Parenting Matters: Discipline versus punishment

  • Wednesday, September 11, 2019 1:30am
  • Life

It is very easy to become angry with your child. Sometimes your anger will cause you to make some serious errors in how you discipline your child. Discipline should help your child learn self-control while you continue to have a positive parent-child relationship.

Some discipline you find just does not work. Some discipline is commonly and ineffectively used. Here are some examples: belittling, hitting, humiliating, nagging, name-calling, ridiculing, screaming, spanking, and threatening.

When it is clear to you what does not work, it then allows you to find a method of discipline that does work. When discipline is appropriate it teaches a child that he is in control of his behavior even when you are not there to correct him. You also need to make sure the discipline is appropriate for your child’s age.

There are two kinds of effective consequences, natural and logical consequences. An example of natural consequences would be when something happens because of your child..

For example, losing his favorite toy means he no longer can play with it. When he is older, forgetting to do his homework means that because of his behavior he will get a zero.

Logical consequences are the kinds of consequences we take as parent to help your child see that choosing poor behaviors result in unpleasant side effects. These are not punitive consequences; they are logical consequences.

Setting the bar

Here are some examples of age-appropriate consequences for children of different ages:

• Infants

Infants do not ever need to be punished. However, there may be times when you will want to change your baby’s behavior. For example, say he’s throwing his spoon on the ground in an effort to make you pick it back up many times. Here are some things you should try:

Change your tone of voice. Your baby is very sensitive to the tone of voice you use. To change his behavior with your voice, speak in a different, lower tone. A simple “no” will usually work as you take away what he is throwing.

Redirect your baby to a different activity. This means helping your baby focus on something else. For example, when he’s trying to throw his spoon on the floor, take the spoon away and give him something else to play with.

• Toddlers

In addition to the same consequences you use with your baby, you can try a timeout at this age. This may mean putting your child in a separate place in a special chair for a few minutes. This does not have to last for long. The key is to stop talking or looking at your child while he is in time out. Try to have him stay in time out based on his age. So a four-year-old would be there for 4 minutes.

• Preschoolers

For preschoolers, you will want to use the same tactics you used when your kids were toddlers while making a few changes. Try putting toys or privileges in time out! This will work best if the toy is in time out for a limited amount of time, or in the case of losing privileges, the loss is short-lived. Preschoolers aren’t motivated by something that is days away.

• School-aged children

In addition to the consequences you used for preschoolers, you might now want to include some with a bit more impact. For example you could make him come home early from a play date or he might lose TV time or computer time.

• Tweens

By this age, you can use any of the consequences we have discussed. The consequences for his age are ones you know are really important to him. For example, the loss of a cell phone or time with friends are things that really matter to him.

• Teens

At this age, you need to remember what your tween really likes. Driving privilege is a good example or limiting the privileges he has earned to this point. You can make up a list of possible consequences ahead of time and let him sign that he has read it.

Establishing a set of appropriate consequences will not work unless you also let your child know what he is doing right. So make a point of pointing out and talking about the behaviors you love.

Your child really wants your approval. It is important for you to find the things you can really praise.

Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. To reach First Teacher Executive Director Patty Waite, email or call 360-681-2250.

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