Parenting isn't always filled with finger paintings and sitting around the dinner table as a family eating your evening meal. Children occasionally break rules and require punishment to learn from mistakes, but the method of parenting and punishment is not the same for all families. What works for one mother might not work for another, while a punishment suitable for a toddler might not be as effective on a teenager. The Virginia Cooperative Extension states that the four methods of punishment are physical, verbal, penalties and withholding rewards. The key to proper discipline and punishment is finding a method and sticking with it to reinforce appropriate behavior.
Punishment vs. Discipline
Punishment and discipline are not the same thing. Punishments include verbal, physical, time outs and logical consequences. Certain types of punishment can be effective, if they are used appropriately and sparingly, but other types can lead to feelings of anger, hurt, embarrassment, resentment and fear from your child. Punishments give a consequence for an action, but unlike discipline, punishments don't encourage your child to change his behavior. Discipline focuses on setting limits, being consistent, being fair and focusing on setting a positive example for your child.
Physical punishment, also called corporal punishment, involves methods of physically harming a child by spanking with a hand or belt, slapping or hitting a child with another object. The Psychosocial Paediatrics Committee of the Canadian Paediatric Society found that corporal punishment has negative child outcomes such as delinquency, aggression and antisocial behavior. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, "Corporal punishment is of limited effectiveness and has potentially deleterious side effects." Parents should find other methods of discipline to teach effective lessons to children, such as time-out or grounding. It might even be necessary for a parent to take a time out to give herself time to cool off when angry. Some types of physical punishment, such as hitting a child with an object or leaving marks, may be considered child abuse and may lead to legal problems.
Verbal punishment harms a child with words instead of with hands or objects. Types of verbal punishment include telling your child you don't love him or insulting and ridiculing him. This type of punishment harms a child's self esteem, according to the Virginia Cooperative Extension. Your child might also be shamed or become resentful to you. With the focus on punishment, the actual behavior that started the punishment in the first place can be lost in the heat of the moment.
Consequences are an effective way for your child to learn from his behavior because he'll have to deal whatever happens as a result of his actions. A child who refuses to eat dinner will have to deal with waiting until breakfast before he can eat again and deals with the natural consequence of hunger. They also teach responsibility, such as not getting clothes washed because he didn't put them in the hamper. As long as a consequence isn't harmful or dangerous, it's beneficial to allow your child to learn and grow from the experience.
A Time out gives parents and children time away from each other. The time out location should be away from sources of entertainment or stimulation, such as the television. A general amount of time to leave your child in punishment is one minute for each year of age. When the time out is over, explain to your child why he was in time-out in the first place so he can learn from the experience.
- Virginia Cooperative Extension: Discipline for Young Children - Discipline and Punishment: What is the Difference?
- National Institutes of Health: Effective Discipline for Children
- University of Maine Cooperative Extension: Discipline that Works: The Ages and Stages Approach
- American Psychoanalytic Association: Position Statement Regarding Physical Punishment
- The Center for Effective Discipline: Are Discipline and Punishment the Same Thing?
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