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Never Punish, But Always Reward

People ask us why our kids are so well-behaved, and we usually start by telling them this part of our parenting style (there are many other components, of course, to raising great kids).

My wife and I do not punish our children. We both grew up with punishment, as did most of our friends. Punishment causes resentment, anger, and defiance. Worse yet, it doesn't work. It may have some short-term effects that are desirable for the parent, but these effects are temporary.

Only by reinforcing a child's good behavior can you expect him or her to learn deeply the benefits of appropriate behavior. That means no grounding, no yelling, no spanking, and no demeaning lectures. What it does mean is verbal praise, hugs and pats on the back, and maybe even money when you want to reinforce (Remember that bribing is saying, "If you do X, then I'll give you Y." Reinforcing is saying, "Thank you for doing X. Here's some Y.").

When a child is behaving inappropriately, ignore the behavior whenever possible. Any response from you, good or bad, will reinforce the behavior. The more consistent you are, the more effective you'll be. Only in matters of health and safety should you intervene, and it should only be an intervention (not a punishment).

The natural emotional reaction to bad behavior is to punish. It feels instinctual, like you can't control it. We felt this way too when first starting out as parents (and still do sometimes). It's totally normal, and there's nothing wrong with you. Just trust your intellect over your emotions in this situation, stay consistent, and good habits will form. It takes time, patience, and persistence, but it can be done. You can have well-behaved children without punishing them.

Bernice I.
I love the 1-2-3-Magic method by Thomas Phalen. I deal with foster children and this method is magic! It's a counting method. He suggest the five second rule to get to number two. Many times I waited too long. Then he suggests "No talk, no emotion." The child already knows what they did wrong. Lectures and nagging only gives into their behaviors and gives them attention. I love the book and highly recommend it! Bernice
Calling it a reward seems as if you are paying for good behavior. As a parent educator and parent; I know there is a balance. Yet, passivity does not work well. I do disagree with some of what you wrote.
Lilli M.
If you child does not learn there are consequences to bad behavior will they know to take responsibility for their actions. as we all know in the real world there are consequences for the way we conduct i guess i disagree ....seems like lazy parenting when you want to ignore a child.
Yes, consistency is so very important. There are varying opinions on whether or not spanking is effective, but I stand by my idea that it is only effective in the short-term. The only long-term benefit is to reward good behavior. Explanations about behavior seem okay to me as I feel that information is generally a helpful thing for a child. The more information the better. Best of luck to you, Clara, in your parenting adventures!
Clara J.
Hi PapaJeff, I do agree with you that consistency is the key to good parenting skills. I have tried different methods of parenting, disciplinarian, passive but I wasn't consistent with either method. While I do think that sometimes a spanking or time out might be necessary I don't think that it should be done when you are angry with the action of your child. I think that the best thing is to explain to them why what they did was not a good choice. Discipling with love is so important.
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