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  • Is Taking Things Away Effective When Disciplining Kids? Here's What Experts Think

    Do kids understand when you take away their privileges?
    by Kitty Elicay .
Is Taking Things Away Effective When Disciplining Kids? Here's What Experts Think
  • When a child misbehaves, parents would often resort to taking away privileges as a discipline strategy. But is it really effective in curbing misbehavior? After all, a toddler may not understand why you are taking away his favorite toy when he refuses to listen to you.

    Why taking away privileges can be an effective discipline technique

    Some experts, like the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), agree that taking away privileges is a gentler form of discipline that can work for older kids, but it can also work for toddlers who are around 2 to 3 years old, provided it is an “in-the-moment consequence,” according to Romper. The child must also be old enough to understand what is expected of them, including knowing what they should and should not do.

    When taking things away from a young child, it must be close in time to the misbehavior — they simply won’t understand if you choose to punish them two days after. So, for example, when you tell them, “If you hit your sister again, I will take your toy away,” and they do hit their sibling, you must immediately follow-through with the consequence.


    Darby Fox, a child and adolescent family therapist from New York City, tells Romper, “Around age 4, a child can start to understand the future loss of a privilege as punishment.”

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    When to take away privileges

    Before taking things from a child, parents must remember one important thing: they should clearly say what the consequence will be if their child misbehaves.

    “The important piece of this approach to discipline is to establish these consequences in advance — i.e. ‘If you don’t clean up your room, you will lose the ability to play with your LEGOs tonight,’” explains Fox. “As a reactive form of punishment, taking away privileges seems random and fails to establish the connection between a behavior and a consequence. When set up in advance, it gives the child a choice — if they don’t make their bed, they are choosing to not be allowed to play with their LEGOs.”


    Fox adds, “The sooner we set up this sense of accountability, the less discipline we’ll have to do over the long term.”

    Another thing to remember is to always follow through with the consequence. Be consistent and don’t give in even if your child has a meltdown. However, never take away something your child truly needs, such as a meal, advises the AAP.

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    What this discipline method teaches a child

    Taking away privileges teaches children how to own up to their missteps and shows them what they need to do if they don’t want those privileges taken away from them, according to SheKnows. It also teaches kids that privileges need to be earned.

    If you choose to try this discipline technique on your child, keep in mind that the goal is not to punish but to encourage the child to make better choices. So when you take away his favorite toy, let him reflect on his mistakes but also make it clear how he can earn it back. You want to teach your kids self-discipline and self-control so that next time, they will think twice before misbehaving.


    What are the best discipline methods according to science? Click here to find out.

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