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There is no parent who has not uttered
the words “You are grounded.” It is clear
that when children do something wrong,
a parent should not sit idly. The
question is how effective the
punishments actually are, what
consequences do they have, and is
there an alternative?
There is no parent who has not uttered
the words “You are grounded.” It is clear
that when children do something wrong,
a parent should not sit idly. The
question is how effective the
punishments actually are, what consequences do they have, and is there an alternative?
When we have a discussion with parents on this topic, we ask “What is your goal when you punish
the child?”. Usually the first answers are “To get them to listen to us”. “And do they start to listen?” is
the next question. About 95 percent of the parents’ answer “No”.
It seems clear to all of us that punishing is not an effective tool. Why then do we continue to
Then we continue to elaborate with the parents on this topic, there are other answers that begin to
come out. In fact, they punish because they feel powerless, angry, because they want “revenge” for
the bad behavior, to make the child feel bad, because he or she did not behave in the way they
expected, so the child will understand who is “in charge”, and to “respect them.” And last but not
least, because they do not know what else to do to show the child that the behavior is unacceptable.
It becomes clear that the punishment does not achieve correction of behavior, unless it is so severe
that it causes blind obedience based on fear. For example, physical punishment. Parents who
resort to physical punishment, confuse such subordination with respect, without realizing that it has
terrible consequences on the children. We often hear the following statement “You do not
understand, we do not beat our child, we just slap him or her, a little slap and that’s all.” Let’s be
clear that any form of physical punishment, even the” innocent” pulling of ears humiliates and
discourages children and creates low self-esteem. (How would you feel if your boss has the right to
pull your ears when you are late for work?). These children are subsequently more likely to choose
violent partners and to consider beating as an acceptable tool for resolving problems. All these are
results that parents of such children who punish them out “of love” have not gotten the achieved
And why does the punishment not work?
First, the penalty is based on the mistaken idea that if you make a person feel bad, they will
start to behave.

Second, it shifts the focus. It facilitates the children to forget their mistake and focus on how wrong
their parents are; they begin to misbehave when they are not threatened with punishment; think how
to get what they want if possible, instead of analyzing the behavior, which caused the punishment.
Third, the child has a sort of internal accounting; according to them the punishment “redeems” the
mistake: he or she knows that if they behave the same way again, they would simply have to endure
the punishment and everything will be fine, but they do not focus on avoiding the negative behavior.
Fourth, to correct a behavior, the child should decide to cooperate. That is to have an internal
motivation. By punishing them, the parent cuts their way for cooperation.
What is the alternative to the punishment?
If you want the child to correct their problem behavior, you can offer them to solve the problem
together with you. The best solutions are those in which the child is involved, so he or she is
stimulated to cooperate in order to work out together a plan to prevent the problem in the future.
Here is an algorithm of 5 steps that you can apply:
1. Explain what caused your dissatisfaction and why. It is good to be honest when you talk about
the feelings that responded to the act in question. If you are angry, upset, offended, you should say
it. Besides, the child understanding better your perspective when you say in words (verbalize) your
negative reactions, will give them a model of how they can deal with their own feelings, and this will
develop their emotional intelligence.
2. Describe to the child how you expect them to behave in a certain situation. Children do not
always guess what the perceptions of adults are for acceptable behavior. For example, a small child
does not understand why when painting on paper, Mom says “Well done,” and when he or she
decorates the walls in the same way, it is followed by yelling.
3. Think together or suggest how things could be repaired. You can show your child how to clean
up the traces of paint, or you can do it together. Before offering anything, it is better to hear the ideas
of the child how to fix things. You’ll be surprised how creative they can be when they are involved in
the seeking for a solution process. Of course, the tone of the conversation is very important. If the
child feels criticized, it is not going to work.
4. Give a choice. Tell your child that they have a choice in the future: to paint only permitted locations
or his or her paints are taken away for some time.
5. Bearing the consequences of the choice – if the problem behavior does not stop, then politely but
firmly take away the paints for some time and announce this to the child. In this case the parent is
not malicious or cruel and does not make the child feel like a bad person. They treat firmly, but
respect the child as well as themselves.
Perhaps some parents do not see the difference between “suffering the consequences of a
choice” and punishment. The difference is this: When you punish your child, you do not give them
a chance. The door simply closes in front of him or her. The subject is closed.
However, when you explain what the consequences are, the child might not like them, but the
door is still open. He or she still has a chance. They can realize what they have done and endeavor
to fix it. The child can repair what was done. This way you give the children the opportunity to correct
themselves, and to seek a way to not repeat the mistake. The real behavior change is a process that
cannot happen when you apply punishment. The penalty does not allow the child to become a more
mature and responsible person.


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