Creative Child

Three Reasons to Stop Punishing Kids and Three Ways to Help Them Behave Better

by Rebecca Eanes


skills can we truly expect to see positive behavior change, and that teaching can always come without a punishment.

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Three Ways to Help Kids Behave Better Without Punishment

1. Get to the root of the emotional issue. When we listen to what the behavior is communicating rather than quickly punishing that behavior, we can help get to the root of what’s causing the problem and heal it. There aren’t behaviors that need punished. There are problems that need solving and hearts that need healing. Behavior is communication. Are you listening?

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2. Step in as the “mature brain” until their brain matures. That means you set the boundaries that they aren’t capable yet of setting for themselves but do so with the understanding that this isn’t naughtiness but immaturity. When a child bites another child, you remove her from the situation and state the limit on that behavior. In a mature brain, her prefrontal cortex would be able to step in and say “don’t bite,” but because she doesn’t yet have the cognitive resources to control her impulses, you simply stop her from biting. It’s the same as limiting cookies and setting an early bedtime – until they are mature enough to do these things for themselves, it is our responsibility to help them. Consistent time-outs will not mature a child faster.

3. Problem-solving is the “what to do” part of the equation that punishment misses. When they are very young, under the age of 5, we do the problem-solving for them but we can talk through it to model this behavior. “You yelled at mommy. I understand you are upset, but I don’t like to be yelled at. When you feel mad, you can take 3 big elephant breaths, like this. You do it.” As they get older and their brains develop more, we involve them in the problem-solving process and encourage them to come up with solutions. “You failed the last two tests and your grade dropped significantly. Do you know why this happened? Are you distracted at school? Is there something you need to talk about? Can you think of a solution that will help you understand the material or study better?” Helping kids make amends with those whom they hurt, repair or replace things they break, learn positive communication and conflict resolution skills, and become emotionally intelligent will help them far, far more in life than losing electronic devices for a week.

Rebecca Eanes is the bestselling author of multiple books including Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, The Positive Parenting Workbook, and The Gift of a Happy Mother. She is the grateful mom of two boys. 


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