The Reasons Why Punishment Only Makes Our Kids Act Up More

little boy angry and shouting.
little boy angry and shouting.

It’s one of those days, weeks or months where it feels as though our kids are cycling through a slew of bad behaviours.  If it’s not back talking, than it’s eye-rolling, screaming, tantrums, door slamming, sibling rivalry, hitting and more.  Just when we feel we have one behaviour dealt with, another one surfaces.  This vicious cycle leaves us feeling defeated and exhausted.  Why does this happen?  What can we do to fix these behaviours for longer than a day?  The trick is to AVOID PUNISHMENT!

Punishment was the way of the world back when authoritarian parenting was the common parenting style. Back when our kids had to listen to what their parents said no matter what.  If dad said to go to your room, kids did it without questions asked.  In todays’ society we are a more permissive parenting.  It seems as though our kids rule the roost and we are lost treading water trying to gain some respect and control.  How do we get this to stop and to get these negative behaviours to come to an end?  The key is to get to the bottom of the problem.  To find the root.  We need to stop scratching the surface and dig deep.  All of this takes time and sometimes in our crazy lives it feels like the one thing we don’t have is time.  Punishment is an easy, quick fix and sometimes the only tool we know.  The problem is it only fixes for the immediate and short-term.  Punishment is not a long-term solution and it actually perpetuates the problem causing it to get worse.

In order to get long-term fixes we need to solve the problem from the core and in a way that helps your child feel good.  Jane Nelson, parenting expert and author of Positive Discipline states: “Children do better when they feel better.”  When punishment is used as our form of parenting we are doing the opposite of this.  We are making our kids feel blame, shame or pain.  In doing this our kids are feeling bad about themselves.  When we do this we encourage our kids to get angry and want to get back at us.  Yes, for the immediate the behaviour stops, but then they come back at us with a vengeance.  What have we really solved here?  Nothing!

Lets take a step back and think about the last time our kids spilled at the table or yelled out a bad word.  How did you react?  Was it with a loud sigh of disappointment?  Did you yell?  Send them to their room?  How did your child react to your reactions?  Did you see their face get sad and long?  Did they lash out?  With all of these questions I don’t see anything actually fixing the problem of spilling and bad language.  Did we actually reach our goal in helping our kids to stop the negative behaviours or did we make matters worse?  The answer is the latter.  We actually make matters worse by reacting and punishing.  What about next time your child spills you respond in a very matter of fact way something like, “I see that you spilled and that can be very frustrating.  What can I do to help you fix this problem?”  Offer them towels and work together to clean it up.  If your kids’ are older they may want to tidy it themselves.  Once the mess is up remember to offer encouragement, “thank you very much for helping to clean the mess!  Problem solved, no big deal!”

In regards to the bad language you need to look deeper into your child and ask yourself if your child is getting enough positive attention and areas for power in his/her world.  When they use bad language they know it upsets you and it guarantees them attention.  Kids will take whatever attention they can get, even if its’ negative.  Our job is to find way to prevent the behaviours by creating time each day to give our kids the attention quota they need to have their human needs met.  I use Golden Time as a way to schedule and organize getting in the necessary amount of special attention.  When you do this you are preventing which helps us parent proactively instead of reactively.  It helps our kids feel better so in turn, they do better.  It builds your parent child relationship helping create a more peaceful and happy home environment.

So, next time your kids aren’t behaving properly try not to react.  Try not to punish.  Try to dig deeper to the core of the problem and deal with the issue in a positive way to stop the behaviour from reoccurring in the future.  For more information on how to do this and to learn more parenting tools to implement into your home contact me today for one-on-one parent coaching!  Trust me, it works!


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  1. Just like the kid in the states the judge let off because he didn’t know right from wrong. His parents didn’t punish him for doing anything that he did wrong so the judge just let him off. Till he got caught doing something else wrong and then him and his mother took to the roads causing a large man hunt in the sates.
    You can only tell your kids so many times not to touch the hot stove before you let them burn their hands or you scare them by yelling at them or slapping their hands it’s not hard to figure out.
    My daughter is 19 years old going to university to become a teacher and she has been a perfect person growing up with the time outs slap on the ass or yes yelled at. Remember you don’t have to beat them just love them

    1. Hi Dave,
      Thanks for commenting and reading. I totally understand where you are coming from in that you can’t repeat yourself over and over. sometimes your kids have to learn through experience. Sometimes we have to do our job to teach and train and then let go. Let them learn through experience and make decisions on their own based on their experiences. Not always easy but part of life. Learning to let go, In regards to punishment vs. discipline I speak and coach on research based studies and also what has worked for me and numerous clients. Congrats on your daughter’s success with university!

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