Types of Punishment - Which Type is Most Effective on Kids?

parenting Apr 06, 2020
Types of Punishment - Which Type is Most Effective on Kids

Kids will be kids. They will misbehave, make mistakes, have tantrums, and much more. As a parent, how you respond when this happens is crucial. How do you teach your kids right from wrong and prevent them from repeating their bad behavior?  What are the types of punishment that are effective?

In this article we explore different types of punishment to understand which are the best ones to use.  However we also explore if punishment is effective at all?  Could it be that punishment actually doesn't work?  Let's read on and see.

Different Types of Punishments

According to renowned psychologist and behaviorist B.F. Skinner, there are two fundamental types of punishments: positive and negative. These don’t refer to good and bad, though.

Positive punishment — or punishment by application — involves adding something to the situation. Oftentimes, this addition is an unfavorable consequence to what happened or what they did. Scolding, yelling, and spanking are prime examples of this.

Meanwhile, negative punishment is taking away something to curb bad behavior. If your child is fighting with their sibling over a toy, you take the toy away. Grounding your teen to keep them from going somewhere also counts.

4 Common Punishments for Misbehaving Kids

The two types of punishments that Skinner proposed are still quite broad. Under each type, there are several options you can choose from. Below are four of the most common punishments parents use.

1. Physical Punishment

This includes spanking, slapping, smacking, hitting, or and any other form of corporal punishment. 

Experts and studies are clear on their stance about this, though — there is no useful role or benefit of physical punishment. It’s actually ineffective and only serves to hurt your kid.

Most importantly, there is never any situation that warrants hitting a child or even a teen. In fact, it can even be detrimental to your child’s overall growth and development — making them more likely to have anxiety or difficulties in school in the future.

If you have taken spankings or physical punishment as a kid and turned out okay today, it’s not because of the spanking. More likely than not, your parents didn’t resort solely to physical punishments: they also doled out — in equal or greater measure — hours of positive parenting, communication, love and care, support, coaching, and teaching.

2. Emotional Punishment

This is one that you might already be doing unintentionally, as is often the case. Emotional punishments can hurt your child’s emotions, their self-esteem, and their mental well-being.

Yelling is one big example. With yelling the words can be more damaging than the actual action itself. Belittling your child, calling them stupid or worthless, or constantly comparing them to others are all emotional punishments.

While these may seem like just words and actions to you as an adult, they can have a lasting impact on your child — even more than any physical punishment ever could. Pro-tip for girl dads: be extra careful with unintentional emotional punishment. Studies show that girls show greater levels of emotions, including negative ones, and can be hurt more by what you say.

3. Timeouts

A timeout is one of the most popular punishments. It basically calls for putting your child in a corner or placing them in a quiet, designated area for a specified time. When done right, timeouts give your kid a chance to calm down and think about their actions.

The problem is that timeouts aren’t always used properly. Some use it as a tool for shaming or humiliating, or they use it inconsistently. Another huge issue is that it only works for kids up to the age of six or so. Try it with teens, and you’ll probably just make them happy to be sent to their room!

4. Taking Things Away

Confiscating toys, gadgets, and other things your kid loves is another very common punishment. Sadly, it isn’t all that effective either. It doesn’t teach your kid or teen anything good. This kind of negative punishment doesn’t always help kids reflect on what they should have done. Instead, it might just make your kid resent you and think you’re a jerk. They don't listen when they think you are a jerk.

Do Punishments Really Work?

Many of us parents today grew up to think that “bad” or “wrong” behaviors equal punishment. However, punishments don’t really work. At best, punishments can forcibly control your kids’ actions through fear or make them find ways to hide what they did because they know they’ll get into trouble — but they won’t actually be learning anything good. Punishments don’t guide kids towards reflecting on their actions or teach better behaviors.

While it's an extreme example and there are typically numerous things that happen in a person's life before they get there but take a look at prisons; 83% of released prisoners get re-arrested within a decade, showing that even taking away freedom doesn’t encourage positive or better behaviors.

For parents today — it’s important to reframe our mindset about punishments. Instead of focusing on using punishment as a means of discipline, we should be asking ourselves: How can we help our kids do things correctly?

The answer is simple: proper and effective communication.

Teach Discipline Through Communication

Effective discipline for children — is not about punishing; it’s more like educating. This discipline is about guiding children through a process of understanding their actions and consequences, then learning from their mistakes.

Instead of resorting to potentially harsh punishments, take your kid aside and talk to them. Help them understand what went wrong, coach them how to do things right next time, and teach them to learn from what happened.

Ask your kid what they could have done differently. Ask them what happened, why they did what they did, or what they think now after cooling off. This also teaches empathy and hones their critical thinking skills.

Use words and guiding actions to teach your kid right from wrong. Remember, our ultimate goal as parents is to teach our kids and help them become well-rounded individuals. This isn’t a one-and-done thing. It requires constant reinforcement, especially when you’re dealing with younger children. For this, healthy, supportive communication and repetition is key.

The next time you’re tempted to punish your child, pause for a bit and rethink your discipline methods. Try talking with them first. You might be surprised at how much better the results can be!

For more tips on how to be a better father in general, check out our blogs or watch our videos on the Dad University YouTube channel.

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