How to Discipline your Kids without Physically Punishing Them

Effective discipline does not involve physical punishment of children. Praising a child correctly is important to the development of positive behaviors. It’s a great way to encourage good future behavior.

Why Physical Punishment is Harmful

Recent studies have shown a direct link between physical punishment and several negative developmental outcomes for children including increased aggression.

Research has also shown that physical punishment poses a risk to the safety and development of children.

It is extremely important for you as a parent to gain an awareness of other approaches to discipline because it is all too simple for physical punishment to turn into something worse.

Your children have a right to be protected from physical abuse.

Most parents do not want to use physical punishment as a form of discipline.

A child that lives in an abusive environment is likely to grow up and either be abusive themselves or have severe social, emotional, physical and cognitive delays in development.

Be their Model

Your disciplinary methods serve as strong models to your children that teach them how to deal with life’s day-to-day challenges.

It is important to model appropriate behavior and to establish expectations as well as limits.

You must consistently use fair and logical consequences whenever children fail to follow rules.

Keep in mind that a child is not a miniature adult, but only a child and that discipline must be age appropriate and fit the child’s temperament and maturity. 

How to Positively Discipline without Hurting your Child

Children always seem to find a way to ‘push our buttons’ at times and really try our patience.

It’s easy to feel irritated, sad, angry, annoyed, confused and hurt.

It’s at these times when your parenting skills are really tested, and that it’s imperative to maintain a kind but firm stance when it comes to doling out the discipline.

And let’s face it – none of us ever want to hurt our child with physical or verbal abuse.  We want to teach our child that such things are wrong, and punishing a misdeed or inappropriate action by yelling or hitting is hypocritical at best. 

Your goal when disciplining your children is to teach them to be responsible, cooperative, kind and respectful.  The best way to teach this is to always remain consistent, follow through with the same punishment for the same misdeed, and to discuss the discipline with your child openly and honestly afterwards.

Discuss discipline with your child

Always keep in mind that the age, maturity level, and temperament of your child should always be considered when enforcing a set disciplinary action.

Disciplinary actions should be discussed and understood in advance.

Teach your child to understand what they potentially have coming so when they misbehaved they can pause and hopefully choose an appropriate route to avoid it.

And most importantly, remember that it’s not the child you dislike; it’s his or her chosen behavior, action or misdeed.

If you need to, give yourself a brief ‘time out’ before responding with appropriate discipline. 

Sometimes we need a short cooling off period before dealing with our children’s misdeeds in order to avoid a misdeed of our own.

Yelling and hitting should never be an option. 

Keep an open mind as a parent, and be willing to learn with and from your child.

We all make mistakes and it’s important to realize that not every form of discipline works with every child.

Children are just as unique as adults are, and forms of discipline should be tailored to fit the individual needs of both parent and child.  But with a little forethought, patience, firmness, love and understanding, the discipline can have a positive outcome for all involved.

Praising your Child

When you give praise you are giving your child a feeling of positive feedback, which increases their sense of confidence, self esteem and abilities.

When you praise your child, you are pointing out the way they’ve acted, an action they’ve taken, or simply who they are.

Does your child look good? Tell him so.

When your child does anything that pleases you, let him know.

You should also praise a child’s effort to do well, even if it doesn’t come out so good in the end. You should find something each day about your child to praise.

Be on the lookout constantly for behaviors or actions deserving of praise, but don’t be over the top about it.

Be sincere and honest in your praise.

Actively Notice their Good Behavior

Wait for unexpected or previously unnoticed good behavior and praise your child for it.  And when you see such action or behaviors, praise immediately so the child will know exactly what behavior or action was deemed praiseworthy.

It’s also very important to look your child square in the eye when you praise him.

Reinforce the positive behavior, action or trait being praised with a gesture such as a warm smile, a hug, scruff of the hair, or caress his face while you tell him.

Be exact, and state precisely what action, behavior or trait you find praiseworthy.

And most importantly, never directly follow praise with criticism or negative comments.

Let your child know what they did right and reward them for it before you let them know what they did wrong and punish for misbehaving or a misdeed.

So be sure to admire and congratulate your child and celebrate the good person they are growing into by praising their positive actions, behaviors and traits daily.

You’ll be building a strong sense of self in your child and you’ll grow closer as a result.

Consistency is Key

Consistency is key to successfully teaching your child right from wrong when disciplining them. 

It keeps small misdeeds and bad behaviors from later becoming bigger misdeeds and worse behaviors.

You have to stand firm and mean it when you say, “Turn off the television now”or “no dessert after dinner because you didn’t touch your dinner.”

Consistency teaches your child there are defined consequences for misdeeds and inappropriate or unacceptable actions or behaviors.

Inconsistency when disciplining makes you directly responsible for your children’s misbehavior and doesn’t teach them how to be responsible for their actions.

Consistent Discipline with Both Parents

If one parent is too strict and the other is too lenient, the child will key into that and try to manipulate the situation.

Parents must agree on disciplinary action in advance and make a commitment to one another to be consistent in implementing and following through with the consequences. This can be especially difficult if the child’s parents are separated or divorced.

Though you may not be together anymore, it’s imperative that you parent on common ground.

Openly discuss these with your former spouse and your child in advance, so that if discipline is needed, the consequences are understood in advance.

Any disagreements between you two should be discussed out of the child’s earshot.

Consistency is about being strong and standing firm, even when doing so is extremely difficult or exhausting.

It can sometimes be hard to come home after a hard day at work only to find a hard night of parenting in front of you.

Your child will consistently test the boundaries and ‘push the envelope’ with you to see if there’s any play in those consequences.

By standing firm you are showing there is not and that you expect them to do nothing less than take responsibility for their actions. 

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