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  • Writer's pictureOnce Upon A Mommy

When Punishment Doesn’t Work…

Updated: Feb 26

By Cris S.

January 9, 2024


Many of us have THAT child.. You know, that child who could care less if you put them on a time out.

That child who just shrugs if you take away his video games because he didn't clean his room.

That child who seems to want to misbehave just for the sheer amusement of it all. Oh yes. That's the one I'm talking about.

So what do you do as a parent in this case?

Read on fellow parents...

  • Just because you had one kid who responded well to discipline, doesn't mean the next one will too. (After all, most of us know the second child usually insists on being WAY more difficult than the first). By my 3rd and 4th child I learned to take a completely different approach when discipline just wasn't working. I decided to try reinforcing POSITIVE BEHAVIOR. The first time I tried this my son was 6 years old, and it was summer break. There were a few days of stormy weather so we couldn't get outside to release any energy, and when that happens, my son just LOSES IT!! (Shout out to all the Mommy's out there who have MULTIPLE little boys in the house on days like that! Phew!)

I went to the Dollar Store and purchased a basket and several little Dollar Store treasures. (Action figures, slime, crayons and color book, Hot Wheels, etc) I set the basket on our counter right where he could see it as a constant reminder to BEHAVE. I explained to him that each day he had a primarily good day, he could pick a prize out of the basket after dinner. During the day, if he started acting up, I was able to remind him about the prize and this usually made him do a quick turnaround with his behavior. The idea here is to promote positive behavior and make it into a habit. A daily prize worked well with his age and helped to reinforce good actions over bad ones. (An older child can work towards a weekly prize that is age appropriate).

This really had an amazing impact on my son's attitude, and soon he started going out of his way to do "extra" things around the house for me. After practicing this for a couple weeks and giving his behavior a chance to really turn around, we switched over to weekly prizes. This method of positive reinforcement worked far better than any discipline ever had. No, I'm not saying my son became an angel and never gave us problems ever again! But this worked well for a period of time where we really needed SOMETHING that actually worked! This is in no way rewarding bad behavior: It is rewarding good behavior. There are many different ways you can tailor this method if you don't want to go out and buy toys: Prizes can be in the form of a sweet treat, a special movie night, or a "Get out of a chore" ticket.

I understand that when your kid is really misbehaving, the LAST thing you want to do is start a reward program... But if nothing else has worked so far, what do you have to lose??

  • What if the bad behavior is in the form of words? Here is a tactic I use on my younger AND older kids. (It drives them nuts, but it usually has the desired effect) If one kid says something mean or with a nasty attitude to another kid, I bring them over and tell them that they need to RE-WORD it without the attitude and without being mean. If they have to stand there for a moment and think about it, that's fine. As their parent, you can of course offer up some examples of how they could have better communicated what they said. Example: Child 1 to Child 2- "Haha! I got all A's and you got only C's! Guess I WON'T be seeing YOU in college!" Mom to Child 1, sarcastically- "Yes, haha, you are so funny! Why don't you get over here and try that sentence again?" This can easily turn into a learning experience, where you teach Child 1 to offer support and encouragement instead of ridicule. Another example: Young child to sister- "That dress looks so bad on you!" Mom - "Well now you get to apologize, and also say something nice about how your sister looks."

  • Turn the negative interactions into positive ones. This tactic will not magically cancel out all the bad attitudes and rude comments that may be thrown around at home. In fact, chances are great that your kids will HATE this!! But we are once again promoting and practicing the POSITIVE behaviors! If you do this with them enough, eventually the kids know that it's coming, and much of the time one look from Mom and they will automatically change their comment before you have to say anything at all! Yessss! That's a win in any parenting book.. I use this tactic on my teenagers when their attitudes creep up and they try directing those attitudes towards me.. I have made them re-word sentences enough times that all I have to do is give them "the look".. This makes the attitudes magically dissipate.

  • Take a hint from "The Simpsons". You know, the opening scene where Bart is writing on the chalkboard? Yes, that's the one! If none of the above tactics seem to help, you can always try the good old fashioned pencil and paper!

  • With toddlers, there's only so much they understand, therefore only so much you can do. They won't stay put on a time out, they only comprehend bits and pieces of what you say, and they are made to explore and get into trouble. The best way you can teach them in these early stages is to just utilize the word "no". There's not much else you can do. Don't worry Mama!! Just because you have a very troublesome toddler does not mean they will grow into troublesome kids. Pretty much all toddlers are little tornados. (And some are full on hurricanes!) Start setting boundaries early on... This is IMPERITIVE to raising a respectful, mostly well-behaved and happy child!

  • Do you have a child who is just plain grumpy a lot of the time? My second daughter was an angry little elf... She always had trouble communicating what she was feeling, therefore she would act out with crappy behavior. I started working with her to get some clarity into her feelings. There is usually some kind of emotion that is masked by the anger and crankiness, and I know of an excellent tool that you can use to help younger kids define what they are feeling when they can't put it into words.

  • If you have a child that seems to have exceptional, out of the "normal for their age" types of bad behaviors, it may be time to take a closer look.

Please like and share!

Happy Parenting!

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