The most common punishments used are time outs and reward systems and they do work…but not really.
What does that mean?
Well, when we are doing time outs, our thought it that children go somewhere (probably in their room), to think about what they did and to presumably see they were wrong and stop doing it. What actually happens is that children will feel dismissed and uncared for. Making them angrier. Their likely thoughts in time out is how they will get revenge on you and/or how they will make sure not to get caught next time. So, for that moment in time, the punishment worked, because it stopped the behaviour, but in the long run, it will repeat itself.
Children are learning negatively in this situation – how to not get caught, to take revenge, that they are not listened to and uncared for.
In the meantime, if we are using reward systems, while again they work in that moment in time to get them to comply for the reward, YOU are the one who needs to be on the alert all the time to make sure that the child is doing good/bad behaviour.
The child, is not learning to control their behaviour, because it is not their responsibility to see that. They are not doing the good stuff out of wanting to be better humans, to help others or out of care. Nor doing it so they learn more. There is simply no drive to do these things for themselves unless there is the reward.
Yet, at some point, our idea was/still is, that we wish our children to be happy, confident, independent, caring, compassionate, helpful, responsible…. and well the list can be really long… when they grow up.
These 2 punishments, looking at them, does not seem to promote such does it? So what do we do? How can we change that?
- Take a time out yourself. If a behaviour is leading us into anger and frustration, mirror how to control emotions by taking a time out yourself. Let them know that you are getting ____ and need a time out, so you will go in the other room for a few minutes to calm down.
- Connect first. Hugs are ways that help so much in calming down situations. Validating feelings are other ways we connect: “I see you are really ____ right now, how can I help?” Play or talk for a few minutes with your children BEFORE requesting something.
- Correct later. We are not letting children away with it, if we do not correct them that very second. Think about it, if you are upset and angry and someone comes up to you and tells you what you are doing wrong, will you listen or get more upset/angry? So why do we expect differently from children? Giving them space to calm down (all of us), we will be able to recall what happened and what we could have done differently We can put up clear expectations for them to follow. We can explain why that behaviour was not acceptable and so setting them up for success.
- Follow Through. If a child knows what the expectations (boundaries) are and what the consequence for not following them are, you are the one that need to follow through with them. One reason why children keep repeating a behaviour is that we do not follow through with consequences agreed beforehand.
- Listen. The art of listening is not easy and we need to start listening to what our children are saying. When we take time to listen before we get angry and punish, we are likely to learn things that never crossed our minds and actually make us realise that the punishment we were about to give is not acceptable.
Just using these 5 parenting tools, will teach: self-regulation, listening and caring skills, responsibility, compassion, their voice and needs matter.