Child discipline is a very sensitive subject for many parents. Let’s just take a moment to reflect on our past experiences. It’s safe to say that there’ve been times we’ve all thought I’ll never do that to my children or when I’m a parent, I will do the opposite. Everyone has had different experiences and unfortunately some of them were bad. Honoring that, this article is meant to educate and inform you of the many different ways child discipline looks. It’s meant to give you examples (and non-examples) to tuck into your parenting toolbox.
Just as no two children are alike, there is no cookie-cutter way to positively or negatively punish or give children consequences. Most parents have an idea of how they want to discipline their children. Sometimes children’s age and/or personalities guide how this happens. Let’s approach discipline as a sliding scale, with positive on one side and negative on the other, with most of the examples in this article somewhere in between.
Back in the day, punishment and consequences were bad. Rewards were good. Today we hear terms like positive punishment and negative reinforcement which can be confusing. So let’s dive into just what terms like these, and others, mean in regards to children in the 21st century.
Positive vs. Negative Child Punishment and Reinforcement
- Whether you are trying to encourage (reinforce) or discourage (punish) behavior.
- Whether you are adding something to influence behavior (positive) or taking something away to influence behavior (negative).
All of these thoughts can be very effective with children. What, when, and how you choose to use them will be up to your family beliefs, as well as your child’s behavior and response to the punishment you give them.
Positive Punishment is something added to discourage certain behaviors from happening again. Sometimes it’s a natural consequence due to their choice. If they hid their chicken tender under their bed and found it and ate it two days later, the natural consequence is a sick stomach.
Positive reinforcement is “something is added to the mix that makes the behavior more likely to continue or reoccur (i.e., a pleasant consequence is introduced to the subject to encourage their behavior).”
Positive Reinforcement Examples
Here are some common examples of what this can look like.
- Time Out. It’s recommended that the child be in time out one minute for each year of their age.
- Yelling. Yelling at the child about what they’ve done when it’s something you don’t approve of.
- Writing Sentences. Normally used in school situations, this is equally effective at home. Writing what they will do next time is a great way for them to recognize what’s expected of them.
- Extra chores. This allows them to help out with household chores, be active, and not secluded in time out.
Spanking. The effectiveness of spanking is widely debated.
The effectiveness of positive reinforcements are dependent on the consistency of when they are given.
Negative punishment “reduces a behavior or response by taking away a favorable stimulus following that action.” Something is being taken away from the scenario in an effort to change the behavior.
Negative reinforcement is “encouraging a desired behavior to repeat in the future by removing or avoiding an aversive stimulus.”
Negative Reinforcement Examples
Following are some examples of removing something to change behaviors:
- Lost toys. The child doesn’t clean up their toys that are scattered around. Toys either get lost (natural consequences) or a parent takes them away because they weren’t picked up.
- Shortened screen time. If a child is misbehaving or not following directions, they lose out on screen time.
- Taking away toys. If a child is throwing a tantrum, a parent may take away the toy they are playing with in order to stop the tantrum.
- Loss of privileges. When a child is not doing what is expected of them, it is common for a parent to take away privileges until the expectations are met.
Being educated on the various ways of shaping children’s behavior allows you to make the best, educated decisions. Being flexible is also important as no two children are the same. What works with one, may not work for another. That’s ok because now you have resources to help make those adjustments.
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