Disciplining your child is probably one of the toughest challenges of parenthood — as he grows older and learns to express his emotions, he can be prone to tantrums, acting out, and being disrespectful.
When a child misbehaves, parents often resort to punishing the child. Most often, it’s a "negative form" of punishment or a penalty that is “delivered by subtracting something from your child,” says Dr. John D. Rich, an educational psychologist and associate professor of Psychology at Delaware State University in the United States, on his website.
“If your child hits his brother, you can take away his iPad, video games, outside play time, or give him a time-out,” Dr. Rich says. So even though negative punishment works at times, more often than not, the kids are too young to understand the rules you set in place. It becomes about what you've taken away (something they really love), not their bad behavior.
Dr. Rich provides three reasons why negative punishment doesn’t always work and what you can do instead:
1. You punish without providing any information about what the child can do.
If you tell your kid, “Be quiet!” because you’re busy working, he might interpret it as “Don’t be loud.” But why is he loud in the first place? It might be because he’s frustrated, impatient, or releasing pent-up energy.
Once you identify the reasons for your child’s behavior, you can now look for alternative ways to satisfy that need, so that both of you are happy, says Dr. Rich. Talk to them calmly and discuss what you would like to see them doing in the future instead of just reprimanding them harshly.
2. You punish without communication. Negative punishment won’t last for long. For example, if you punish your kid for being loud, he’ll only learn to control his voice when you’re around. Once you leave, he might revert to being loud and unruly.
After punishing your child, it’s vital that you follow it up with positive parenting so he can gain something from experience and learn how to act appropriately next time. Explain the rules well and make him understand what he’s doing wrong. Then, think of other activities that will lead to good behavior.
3. Your punishment leads to resentment. A child who respects his parents may be frustrated by rules, but he will still follow them. He understands his parents made those rules out of love; it's not to take away his freedom. To earn each other's respect, you need positive parenting, open communication, and consistency (be firm!) when you lay down the rules and set boundaries. Don’t forget to acknowledge and show your appreciation when your kids abide by your discipline. By laying this foundation, your kids will be able to handle and face similar situations in the future.