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Non-Punitive Discipline Techniques

by Darlene Peer

Non-punitive discipline is not the same as permissiveness. When you use non-punitive discipline techniques, you're both correcting your child's behavior and giving her the tools to work out her own future problems in a non-violent way. Non-punitive discipline is a respectful, kind and compassionate way to help your child find the right way.

Choosing Non-Punitive Discipline

When dealing with small children, it can be tough to remember that sometimes they misbehave because they just didn't understand the rules or the proper way to do something. If your child doesn't know how to do something right, whether because she hasn't been shown or just doesn't have the dexterity to pull it off, then it doesn't make sense to punish her. By modeling good behavior and problem-solving skills yourself, you teach your child to think before reacting.

The Developing Mind

In cases where you know your child knows better and still chose to misbehave, talk to your child and find out why he behaved the way he did. When a child is angry or wants something, he may not have the cognitive ability to stop himself before thinking it over. Kids are still developing both physically and mentally which may stop a child from being mature enough to think about the consequences of his actions. It's important to understand your child's development so you're not pushing him to take on tasks he can't handle or setting expectations for behavior that he can't live up to.

Types of Non-Punitive Discipline Techniques

When you begin to understand your child's development and what she can and cannot do, it's time to teach your child via non-punitive discipline techniques. You may have to try a few before you find the right technique for your child, although a mix of approaches does work well for most kids. Role-play is a fun technique. If your child does something wrong, like hitting a friend who took his toy, take him aside and help him think of other ways to solve his problem. Point out that hitting didn't get the toy back and just got him in trouble. Ask if he can think of other ways to get his toy back. If he's young, you may have to nudge him along as he problem-solves. This is also a good time to teach about empathy. Ask him to look at his friend and then ask how he thinks his friend feels. If your child acts up at daycare or school, play school with him and ask him to be the teacher. Seeing how he perceives the teacher's role in the classroom or daycare will help you see how feels he's treated when he's in the classroom himself.

Internal and External Movtivation

Different forms of punishment can have an impact on your child's long-term behavior. A child who is punished for a wrong doing, whether with a time out or by losing privileges, doesn't learn self-discipline or self-regulation. Instead, that child learns to constantly toe the line for approval or she learns to sneak around and not get caught. That type of motivation is referred to as "external" motivation because the behavior is prompted by something outside of the child. "Internal" motivation is self-discipline and inner motivation. By having your child involved and solving problems, you teach her to think for herself instead of just telling her what she should be thinking. Every parent knows that it's more rewarding to discover your child cleaned her room without prompting instead of tiredly nagging her a dozen times. A child with internal motivation will understand that cleaning her room makes it hard to find belongs and slows her down. An externally motivated child often needs to be told what to do.

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