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Sunday, October 09, 2011

Ten Alternatives to Corporal Punishment

Yesterday, I wrote a blog entry entitled “Why Corporal Punishment is Wrong.” At the end of the article, I stated that I would describe my top ten tips for effectively teaching children good behavior and discipline without hitting them. Without further ado, here they are:



  1. Instill a good sense of moral values with your child from a very early age. Teach the Golden Rule (“Treat other people the way you would want to be treated”) as the basic principal underlying personal interactions. Remind children of this whenever they violate the Golden Rule and remind them that they would not like it if someone behaved to them in the way they just behaved to someone else.
  1. Model positive behaviors when you are upset. Try not to scream, curse, or physically act out in front of the child so you do not model the very behaviors that you do not want the child to do when upset. No one is perfect and you will occasionally slip up, but when you do, admit the mistake. It is frustrating and confusing for a child to see double standards in behavioral expectations and rules.
  1. If the child makes a mistake in behavior (e.g., does not say thank you) correct it immediately and explain what was wrong and why.
  1. Teach the child that there will be consequences for undesirable behaviors in the form of privilege withdrawal. Try to use a warning first unless the undesirable behavior is particularly problematic. Many children will tell you that this is actually the worst type of punishment because they do not want their toys taken away from them, do not like being grounded, do not want their phone or ipod taken away, etc.  
  1. Follow through with threats of consequences. If you say you are going to take a privilege away but do not follow-through with this after an undesirable behavior, then the child is not going to believe you and will continue with the behaviors. Ideally, a warning will ultimately suffice to modify behaviors because the child will learn that you mean business when you issue a warning. Do not give in to temper tantrums as the child will only learn that this is an effective way to get out of the punishment.
  1. Only allow the child to get the privilege back by doing something positive and desirable rather than just giving it back the next day or later in the day.
  1. Talk with the child about why the privilege was taken away, what he/she did that was wrong, why it was wrong, and how to handle the situation differently next time. Tell the child what they need to do to get the privilege back, to apologize to anyone who was affected by the behavior, and most importantly, always tell them that you still love them and give them a hug at some point. It is important that you have a positive bond with the child to most effectively provide discipline.
  1. Reward the child for positive and desirable behaviors. This can be spontaneous at times but also consider implementing a system in which the child earns points for positive behaviors. Earn enough points and the child receives an award (e.g., 10 points earns a cookie). The points can be in the form of tangible objects (marbles, tokens stored in a jar) so the child can monitor progress better. Points can be taken away for undesirable behavior and regained with positive behaviors. For more information on this topic, do an internet search for “token economy.”
  1. Talk with your child from an early age about societal expectations and demands. Teach them from an early age why learning, reading, staying in school, and staying out of trouble are important. Teach them about staying away from drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, other children who get into trouble, and age-inappropriate violent media. Talk with them about the consequences of bad behaviors and/or a poor education in childhood and adulthood (e.g., suspensions, jail, homelessness, low income). The content of these conversations will obviously depend on the child’s age.
  1. Surround the child with positive role models. This can be real role models such as parents, siblings, other family members, and friends but can also apply to positive fictional role models on television (e.g., He-Man or Franklin as opposed to Jason and Freddy Krueger). 

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