Photo by Allen Taylor on Unsplash

Many parents might think upon hearing “alternatives to punishment” that there is one magical sentence they could tell their kids so they would stop their undesirable act. However, that’s not the case! Let’s take a look at what our specialists think when it comes to this matter.

Five Elements to Take into Consideration When Finding Alternatives to Punishment

The alternatives to punishment rely on five important elements:

1.      The parents’ state of mind: if you’re feeling tired from work, stressed out due to external issues, or maybe you have gotten into an argument with your partner, your temperament plays an important part in the way you react to your children’s behavior.

2.      Your child’s physical and psychological state: how was your child’s day? Did they make any new friends? Were they bullied? Did they go through an uncomfortable situation? Are they hungry or lacking sleep?  What are they feeling?

3.      The time and place: whether you are home, have guests over, in a play area, at a relative’s house, in addition to the time the behavior took place.

4.      The number of times this behavior happened: was it a one-time-thing or a repeated occurrence?  

5.      Whether the child’s behavior puts them in danger, or not.

You can quickly select and skim through each of these elements with a clear head and determine why your child acted in the way they did, and most importantly how you can solve it.

Based on the aforementioned elements, you can then take the time to evaluate which solution is the best fit to solve your child’s behavioral problem. For that, we bring before you 10 alternatives to punishment.

10 Alternatives to punishment

  1. Prevention: try to prevent the behavior before it happens. Mothers can sometimes identify cues that set their children to act in a certain way. This allows you to be one step ahead, and not only avoid the unwanted behavior, but the punishment altogether.
  2. Identify your child’s needs: show your child the attention and connection they are looking for. Listen to them every once in a while and learn more about their needs.
  3. Distract your child: you can give your child something else to do or simply change the scene they are in.
  4. Give your children options: if you have to go out somewhere and your child refuses to get dressed for example, you can give them a timeline to get ready from which the child can choose when to get dressed. This way, your child feels like they are in control of their own decisions.
  5. Communication and Respect: if you are in a public gathering, you should not reprimand your child before other people. Instead, silently remove them from the crowd, speak to them and let them be vocal about their issues, validate their feelings, and then come up with a common solution that satisfies both you and your child.

  6. Set clear limits and find a suitable method of communication with your child. Be strict about the rules you set around the house.
  7. Remove yourself from the situation: If you are feeling emotionally and physically exhausted, try to entrust your partner or a close friend who is already present, while you take the time to simply breathe and take in what’s happening. Never act out of impulse. If there is no one present, try to step out of the room to breathe, or simply calm yourself. If your child senses the negative vibes or tension from your actions, expressions or way of talking, a 5-minute tantrum can easily turn to a 20-minute tantrum.
  8. Give your child an environment of their own: a safe space for the child’s games and toys. Parents often tell their children to refrain from jumping on the couch, or playing in the living room, but might neglect the fact that they themselves need their own safe space too.
  9. Think the situation through: Are the standards you’re setting for your child too high to reach? Lower your expectations a bit and remember that they are still developing and learning.  
  10. Put yourself in your child’s shoes: If you ever commit a mistake, think about the way you want that mistake to be addressed by the ones you love and trust most. Think about the words you would like them to tell you, and the actions you’d wish they would take.

Regardless of the situation or alternative you choose, always make sure to let your child know that they are loved and cared for. Do your best to never let your emotions get in the way of the relationship between you and your child. In other words, be careful not to accidentally end up as the barrier that stands against a healthy relationship with your child.

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