Alternatives to Punishment for Your Child

Do you ever feel as though punishing your child for misbehavior results in more misbehavior? When a child misbehaves, a parent’s natural response is to punish the child. However, research indicates that punishment is often ineffective, and results in the child engaging in behavior that is opposite from what is desired.

Learning the difference between punishment and discipline is a useful tool for parents, and can help a child increase self-control. Punishment relates to control and power, whereas discipline involves education, guidance, and a means for establishing trust.

In How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, authors Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish offer some alternatives to punishing your child:

  • Identify how your child can help: if going grocery shopping with your child often results in a temper tantrum, allow your child to help by letting him/her pick out a few grocery items from your list.
  • Discuss your expectations: you may say to your child, “I expect you to clean up the art supplies once you are finished using them.”
  • Teach your child how to make amends: express your disapproval of misbehavior, while also teaching your child how to make amends. This allows your child to not feel as though his/her character is being attacked, and can teach your child how to make improvements in the future. For example, if your child broke his friend’s paper airplane, you can then say “what this paper airplane needs is some tape.”
  • Provide the child with a choice: communicate to your child that, “you can take turns with your brother playing with the train set, or you can give up the privilege of playing with trains today.”
  • Express your feelings: tell your child, “I feel upset when you throw your blocks at the dog.”

Next time your child misbehaves, try out these alternatives to punishment and see which works best!


Written by: Mary Anne Short