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Children and Positive Punishment

By Brenna Davis ; Updated June 13, 2017

Positive punishment is the practice of adding a punishment and can be contrasted to negative punishment, which is the process of taking away something pleasant. Timeouts and extra chores are examples of positive punishment. Although spanking may be a form of discipline, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises against spanking children. Positive punishment can be an effective component of a parent's disciplinary repertoire.

Positive Punishment Goals

Positive punishment should never be used as the primary discipline strategy. When parents punish children more frequently than they reward them, negative behavior may worsen. This, in turn, increases the frequency of punishment. Instead, positive punishment should be used as the method of last resort. Parents must have something to back up their rules, and this is the role of positive punishment. When parents use positive punishment only occasionally, children understand that good behavior is simply a better choice because bad behavior will result in a time out, extra chores or even a fine paid to the parents.

Punishment and Choices

Children tend to thrive in an environment in which they exert some control. This does not mean that parents shouldn't have rules. Instead, children are more likely to behave when they feel as if good behavior is a choice they make. One way to encourage this choice is to offer rewards for good behavior and punishments for bad behavior. This makes the choice to behave well seem like an obvious, easy choice. Moreover, an environment in which children are rewarded for doing the right thing or eliminating bad habits is a loving, nurturing one in which they feel as if their good behavior is noticed and appreciated.

Positive Punishment Ideas

Timeout is the most common form of positive punishment and is especially effective when children need a few minutes to calm themselves. A timeout, however, is typically not effective with longer-term bad behavior such as lying, drinking or acting out at school. Parents should have a repertoire of effective punishments available that are tailored to the child's misdeed. Extra chores and alone time are frequently effective with younger children. Parents of older children should consider charging their children small "fines" or asking them to do extra chores for a week.

Positive Punishment Warnings

Many parents use positive punishments incorrectly. For example, some parents force their children to read quietly or do word problems as a punishment. These punishments may encourage children to behave better, but they create another problem. Anything that is treated as a punishment will become something that, in the child's mind, is a bad thing. Thus parents should never treat school activities, reading or helping others as punishments. Doing so will make children less inclined to do these things.

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