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Alternatives to Corporal Punishment

Many people come to Center for Effective Discipline (CED) to search for specific discipline strategies to correct child misbehavior. But before talking discipline to manage misbehavior, let’s review two foundational components of child discipline that are often overlooked.

  1. Spend quality time together
    The best childhood learning happens through quality time with our kids. CED encourages parents and caregivers to not simply "spend" time with their kids, but to "invest" time with their kids. To spend time is to lose it; however, to invest time is to recognize that quality time with kids has big pay-offs regarding long-term physical, social and emotional development. A positive foundation that includes a parent’s time, love, and interactions will support actions to correct challenging behavior.
  2. Focus on the good
    Discipline first focuses on “teaching” of new skills. Teach new behavior skills appropriate for the child's age through modeling, practice and coaching. Kids learn best through positive guidance from a safe, supportive adult. Acknowledge positive behaviors completed by the child. Children need to hear more good things about themselves than bad.

When parents concentrate on these two concepts, they will often see a decrease in the frequency of misbehaviors. With a strong foundation in place, we can now turn to effective alternatives to corporal punishment. Before choosing a strategy or developing a plan to manage misbehavior, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why might my child showing this behavior? What might be contributing to the behavior?
  • Are there actions I can take to prevent the misbehavior?
  • What is the goal that I have for my child regarding this behavior?
  • How can I help my child achieve this goal?
  • Do the discipline strategies that I have chosen fit the intensity level of this misbehavior? (i.e. time-outs should be reserved for more serious misbehavior and should not serve as the ‘go-to’ discipline strategy)
  • What skill is my child learning from the discipline strategy that I have chosen?
  • Am I seeing positive improvements in my child’s behavior or skill they are working on following the correction?

Discipline is like a parenting tool-belt. Sometimes jobs require the use of only one tool, while other jobs may require the use of multiple tools all working towards a common goal. Each tool has a specific purpose and contributes towards the end goal. Sometimes we choose the wrong tool; however, when we have a diverse parenting tool belt then we select and apply a different tool as needed. Effective discipline requires a thoughtful and calm approaching to selecting various strategies that can promote positive child growth.

For example – effective discipline to get a child to clean his room may include the following strategies:

  1. Set up the child’s room with reachable shelves for easy clean-up
  2. Model and set a good example of a clean room
  3. Clear rules of what “clean-up” means
  4. Acknowledgement when the child independently cleans up
  5. Use of logical consequences when instructions are not followed

The goal is to set our child up for success and enhance his or her ability to learn necessary skills. We do this first through “teaching” followed by “supportive correction” when in need.

Effective discipline strategies may include: modeling, discussion, clear rules, consistency, teaching, coaching, use full potential of practice opportunities, setting limits & boundaries, problem solving with choices, distraction, returning the child to the activity for opportunity to practice positive behavior, purposeful ignoring, logical consequences, delay of privileges, or time-out.

Visit our For Parents! section to learn how to improve your use of effective, alternative discipline strategies to grow safe, healthy, and resilient youth! Or visit a local parental support resource in your local community to learn more parenting strategies that can grow your own tool belt!

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