Disciplining Children: To Punish Or To Consequence

In previous posts, we have spoken about the differences between punishment and consequences and how to use this knowledge to discipline your teen.

Can this work with younger kids? It most definitely can.

Punishment is usually metered out with anger and accusations. Punishment does not teach kids to improve their behavior. Kids get defensive and want to lash out. On the other hand consequences are delivered gently, in a matter of fact way. Kids are able to take it in. There is a better chance that their negative behavior will improve.

All kids respond better when they are spoken to calmly and rationally.

So, how does this work?

Parents, (myself included), tend to get angry and speak harshly when kids misbehave. We punish by saying:

“Why do you always start up with your brother? Did you have to hit him? What is wrong with you! Go to your room!”

Instead we want to leave out all the extraneous commentary. We want to be focused calm and neutral. This the best way to consequence:

“Hitting someone else means you need to go to your room.”

For younger kids you might also want to take the opportunity to tell them what they can do instead of engaging in the negative behavior. When kids hit other kids, it usually means that they cannot express what they need verbally. To help teach them to tell others what they want and need you can say:

“You hit your brother. You need to ask for what you want instead of hitting. Next time you can say, “Can I have a turn with the train?” That can work better than hitting.”

Here are two more examples:

1. Punishment sounds like this:

“You never do your homework when I tell you! That is why your grades are so bad. No TV for the rest of the week!”

Consequences sound like this:

“To ensure that homework will be done in a timely manner, there will be no TV this week.”

Or you can even say:

“There will be no TV until homework is done.”

2. Punishment sounds like this:

“You are whining again! I told you to go to sleep early last night but you didn’t listen. That is the last time you will be going to sleep late. You need to go to bed now!”

Consequences sound like this:

“You sound tired. Tonight there will be an earlier bedtime. Next weekend I think we are going to stick to our regular bedtime instead of having a treat of staying up late.”

So what do you think? Can we start delivering consequences instead of punishments?
Don’t forget to comment below.

Adina Soclof, MS. CCC-SLP


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