May 27, 2020

Punishment: THE HARD PART of PARENTING

“There is a strong chance that siblings who turn out well were hassled by the same parents.” Robert Brault

“The child supplies the power but the parents have to do the steering.” Benjamin Spock

The word punishment seems severe; little ones participate in uncooperative behavior — not crimes. In the context of this blog punishment is defined as anything   after a child behaves in a certain way that decreases the frequency of that behavior.  Used carelessly parents sometimes punish desirable behavior.

Be quite clear that punishment is not dependant on pain either physical or psychological, only that it helps to decrease the behavior. The only concern is does it decrease frequency over time.

Parents often say: We tried everything and nothing works. In fact, they may have tried several things, but none for long enough to give it a fair try. So as you try to change your interactions carefully look at behavior change over time.  Parents come back after the short time of a week or two and declare behavior has not improved. They sometimes have quit the effort saying “It did not help.”

Consider that it might have helped but they did not have the ability to identify the small changes.

Example: Your baseline count of obey and disobey for the week was 10 obey and 60 disobey. You add clear commands and praise to working with your child. Week 2 the count goes to 12 and 58. Did the behavior improve or was it just a random variation?

Week 3 the count is 14 and 56; then 16 and 54. At this point, you might realize that behavior slowly improved. Maybe you wonder if change will continue through week 20? Looking at the same rate of change, it could increase to 50 obey and 20 disobey. That would certainly be noticeable and noticeable is the point.

Remember it’s often the small, incremental steps of improving behavior that parents must look at. If there’s no behavior tracking, in a meaningful way, incremental progress will often go unnoticed and parents will say “nothing works.”

Yes — parenting is tough. Sticking with it patiently, for longer lengths of time, is often the hardest piece. Do you want to give up after a week or two because you did not notice
those incremental improvements? Or maybe you thought incorrectly the change was random? If parents say they’ve “tried everything,” that typically indicates they’ve tried lots of similar efforts for brief periods of time, often less than a day or two.

As parents — be in it for the long haul. Keep in mind the “noticeable effects” and the small changes. In your mind celebrate every success, know your steadiness will help your child
continue better actions; realize it will be worth your patience and efforts.

Parenting can be thankless when it comes to punishment. Do kids ever say after punishment “thank you very much for the wisdom you gave to me and the reminder you
love me
?”  Frequently the response is glaring and stomping!  Bear in mind, providing each consequence is best done from your foundation of love and wanting the best for your children. You are not after a thank you.

Discipline and behavior change are the outcomes you want. Ultimately you want your kids to effectively monitor themselves. Kids 2-12 want your attention — don’t forget this. The
underlying idea of punishment is to minimize your attention.

The punishment highlighted today is Reprimand. Use it to:

  1. Start a behavior now.
  2. Stop a behavior now.
  3. When a rule is broken.
  4. After a Tell Don’t Ask has not worked.

It is Tell Don’t Ask, done more firmly. Kids want attention; the REPRIMAND is designed to be as brief, yet  as effective and meaningful, as possible.

Practice REPRIMAND using the following communication skills:

  1. Move close — within 3 feet.
  2. Look at your child in the eyes.
  3. Use disapproving facial  expression.
  4. Voice is firm — but low intensity, not mean spirited.
  5. Nonverbal gesture of  disapproval — crossed arms or pointing a finger.
  6. Do it now — as soon as  your child disobeys or something needs done.
  7. As with  — Tell Don’t Ask, be specific.
  8. Wait! See if  the child cooperates. It’s interesting that children may say something like “you cannot make me” and at the same time cooperate. Pay
    attention to the cooperative behavior, not the words.

The sequence:

  1. Tell Don’t Ask. Wait 30  to 90 seconds. You pick a consistent time frame.
  2. If they do not start, do REPRIMAND. Wait 30 to 90 seconds
  3. Whenever your child  cooperates, praise.
  4. If they don’t cooperate,  you will need Time Out.

That will be next week: next step — Time Out