Punishment won't change your child's behavior, psychologists say
Does the secret to raising well-behaved kids lie in punishing them? Some parenting experts don't seem to think so. Read on to learn more about correcting misbehavior without punishment
Moms and dads, how do you discipline your child? Would you say your parenting style has been influenced by how you were raised by your parents? Or, are you taking a different, less traditional approach to correcting "bad behavior" in your kids?
If you believe that corporal punishment, like spanking, is the most effective method to raise well-behaved kids, you may have to open yourself up to more options. At least, this is what some psychologists think.
Though talking to your child and giving instructions can help steer your kid's attitude in the right direction is helpful, it often has no lasting impact on their behavior, psychologist Alan Kazdin explains in an interview with the Atlantic.
To be clear, there are instances when punishment becomes a necessity, especially when it concerns your child's safety. For instance, when they run into a busy street without waiting for the pedestrian light to signal that it's safe to cross. But to truly teach them the importance of safe behavior, psychologist Michael Karson explains that simply giving them instructions won't do the trick.
According to FamilyDoctor.org, punishments like time-outs or spanking may temporarily inspire good behavior, but they provide little to no assurance that this behavior will be reinforced and assured as they grow.
So how can parents reinforce good behavior without using punishment? Here are a few ways, according to experts.
Manage your own emotions
Being able to rein in your negative reactions when trying to discipline your child will model positivity. If you speak to them in a calm and objective way, it can encourage your child to be more receptive to correction.
Acknowledge their feelings
Providing them with a "safe space" to be upset and express their feelings helps them navigate and form ways to cope and "self-soothe," says Psychology Today. Do not prohibit them from opening up when something upsets them. This will only encourage them to internalize and repress feelings, which can result in further misbehavior.
Empower kids to make a choice
Dr. Kazdin believes that "choice increases the likelihood of compliance. And choice isn't important, it's the appearance of choice." Presenting them with choices gives them the feeling of autonomy, which can often be more effective in reinforcing lasting, good behavior.
Tailor discipline to your child's learning needs
Pay attention to how your child retains and executes instruction. Does he tend to zone out when you speak to him at length? Does he respond more to scolding cushioned by loving words and a cuddle afterwards? As their parent, you will know the most effective way to influence your child when it comes to discipline.
Connect and listen before correction
Kids need to feel understood before they consider accepting and adhering to limits on behavior. Make an effort to connect through conversation before you speak to them about why a certain behavior needs to change.
Set limits with love
Genuinely empathize with them, by saying things like: "I understand you are upset that you cannot go out to play, but it's nighttime now and I only want you to be safe because I love you."
Remember that misbehavior reflects a need
To help you further guide your kid, it helps to trace the root of the problem. Often, misbehavior is indicative of some need. Addressing this underlying need is vital in order to influence better behavior. Is he cranky because he lacks sleep? Did he lash out because he felt attacked or disrespected?
Set aside what disciplinary action you plan to implement, sit down with your child, reassure them of your love and move forward. Remember: the process of inspiring good behavior is a journey you and your child must take together.
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