How to Discipline Your Child Without Punishing Them

Think a swat or two on your kid's behind is harmless? Maybe not.

By Jay Scott Fitter, WorkingMother

Discipline is one of the defining elements of parenting. Used sparingly or liberally, understanding how to discipline your child is fundamental to the parent-child dynamic. In its most basic form, discipline is about choices and consequences: You explain your expectations for your child, and if he ignores these rules or expectations that there are consequences. The aim of these consequences should be to encourage your child to stop negative behaviors, make positive choices and ultimately become a better person.

[post_ads]Through discipline, kids are taught to become responsible, honest, kind and sharing people. By following their parents’ guidance, teachings and rules, they have the chance to grow up to be well-behaved and respectful individuals. The big caveat: Discipline and punishment are not the same thing. If you punish your child instead of disciplining him, you probably wont get the desired result.

Parents who spank or swat their kids often believe it won’t hurt them. After all, they were spanked by their parents. But a recent study shows that after such parents are exposed to the many study findings showing corporal punishment’s negative effects on children, a significant number change their opinion..

Here are five reasons why discipline is better than punishment.

Punishment is about overreacting.  The urge to punish comes from within when you feel hurt by your child's behavior—you're looking to strike back and inflict this same pain, often overreacting to the situation. In the heat of the moment, Mom or Dad might lash out in anger or impulsivity, even raising a hand to a child, instead of taking a deep breath and assessing the situation objectively.
Punishing doesn't teach lessons. Once you’re caught up in the punishment mindset, it's hard to think rationally or be compassionate in considering how to discipline your child. And it doesn't help your child learn right from wrong. What specific "lesson" does a yanked and twisted arm teach? But treating a child with respect, talking to him and getting him to thoughtfully discuss the situation turns his inappropriate behavior into a learning opportunity.

Parents and children are mismatched.A big problem with an adult punishing a child is that the two are not equals. Yet parents often don’t focus on this inequality or the incredible vulnerability of a child. When calm and rational, no one would argue that children are different than adults. They're not the same size or strength, and they have less knowledge and fewer life experiences. What’s more, when parents punish their kids out of anger, they teach them that it's okay to treat those who are weaker, smaller and younger with less respect. It’s an unfortunate example of parents modeling bullying behavior.

[post_ads]Children deserve the same respect as adults. Consider the dozens of interactions you have with others on a daily basis. Would you swat a co-worker or slap an associate because she didn't do a good job, spoke out of turn or disappointed you? Of course not! In any other situation, you would react with a degree of self-control. But, for whatever reason, some parents react to misbehaving kids by hitting them out of anger.

Punishment creates a fear-based relationship. Consider the type of relationship a parent develops with a child and the example set in regards to problem solving. A parent that frequently punishes a child establishes a relationship built on fear. If a parent is aggressive and unpredictable, the child will become fearful and worry about what his parent will to do every time he makes a mistake. Moreover, this fear and anxiety stays with the child later in life. He may be waiting to be hurt and for something bad to happen.
Bottom line: Learn how to discipline your child by correcting unwanted behavior, and teach positive behaviors using discipline strategies rather than a punishment. It’s a loving, respectful and effective way to help them.

Jay Scott Fitter has two decades' experience as a licensed marriage and family therapist, and is a popular parenting workshop leader and speaker. He is the author of the new book, Respect Your Children: A Practical Guide to Effective Parenting.

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Lifestyle Magazine: How to Discipline Your Child Without Punishing Them
How to Discipline Your Child Without Punishing Them
Think a swat or two on your kid's behind is harmless? Maybe not. Find out how to discipline your child...
Lifestyle Magazine
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