Choosing appropriate punishments

(continued from yesterday’s post) 

“How do you choose the appropriate punishment?”

I used to tie myself into mental knots trying to figure out just the right punishment.  Too often, I couldn’t think of the right response and I would delay responding (or not respond at all because of my unsureness) or would overreact out of my lack of confidence in my approach.  Now I don’t.  I’ve found the approach of using logical (not natural) consequences is pretty straightforward and doesn’t require too much creativity, usually.  For example, above, I tell the whining child no more talking.  The child who repeatedly leaves his things out wouldn’t be allowed to use those items for a certain amount of time, someone who kicked would have his shoes taken off, etc.  But if I can’t think of something logical fast enough, then I’ll choose something else whether the child can see a direct connection or not. Most commonly it would be, ‘come stay next to me for a while since it looks like it will help you if you have me nearby to remind you about how to __________ (restrain yourself, use nice words, whatever your issue is).”   It’s a nice way to say it but my kids know it means they’ve lost the privilege of playing out of my sight by their actions.

Something else I do often is have the child practice the appropriate behavior several times, to help them integrate it. If a child jumps on the couch, I would have him sit down and get up a number of times (not just once).  If a child told me ‘no’, I would tell them we’re going to replay the scene, and this time they would respond by pleasantly saying, Yes, mommy” (or something like that).  I would then repeat my request, and the child would respond (usually the first time they say the words with a bad attitude).  Then I would repeat my request, and remind them about the tone and the words.   Then I would do that several times. It’s not to make them crazy, it’s not to punish them – it’s to teach them proper behavior, and actively guide them in practicing it several times.

When a parent’s focus is on punishment, there’s a punitive and negative mindset.  I try to focus on discipline as correction for the sake of the child’s long term good.  By reframing how I look at the situation, even if it’s just changing the words that I speak or think, it helps me keep a positive perspective.


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