I don’t do “how-to”posts on parenting and discipline, but I like putting principles out there that might inspire positive change. Discipline and punishment is an area of constant frustration for parents, so here it goes…
Punishment is a part of effective discipline- the negative part. Punishment is very ineffective on its own and has to be supported by the positive part of discipline- rules, positive expectations, rewards and affirmation. All of which must be applied consistently!
That last part is what is probably most frustrating- consistency:
In other words, we get from our kids, what we give ourselves.
Due to this frustration, we sometimes let emotions enter into issuing punishment. But the things is-
Punishment should not be personal.
Here are the ABC’s to avoid in giving punishment:
Anger. We all get angry, and certain acts may inspire righteous indignation from us as parents. But if a behavior is embarrassing or very shocking to the point it causes anger, it isn’t the right time to punish the child. The important thing is to stop the behavior and then revisit the need for punishment when a cooler head can prevail.
Battles. Many children, even very young ones, know when they have gotten the best of us. Engaging in a battle over the method of punishment or whether or not punishment should occur allows for frustration of the parent and delay of consequences for the child- both are enemies of consistency. Even if the child doesn’t comply with the punishment immediately, it’s better to stay the course without negotiating until they see that they aren’t going to get what they want until they “do the time.”
Criticism. Punishment is doled out for an infraction of the rules- not because a child has character flaws. Criticism complicates discipline and says to a child, “You’re worthy of nothing better than what you’re getting.” If a child starts feeling that way, then what is the point of behaving more appropriately? Discipline, including effective punishment, should say, “You’re capable of much more than this.”
So ask these questions when you’re tempted to punish your child:
Am I doing this because a rule has been broken, or because I am angry? (If there are no standing rules, you will want to take some time to set those up for your home and communicate them clearly.)
Can I stick to this course of action (act of discipline) once I’ve decided it’s needed? (It’s best to decide punishment ahead of time, specifically and appropriately for each rule.)
Is this punishment going to build my child’s character, or tear it down?