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Monitor & Reflect

Alternatives to Punishment

It is possible to avoid punishments altogether by teaching your child to monitor and reflect on their own behaviour.

Research has found that when children self-rate their behaviour, it improves, and they learn to create their own internalised standards for acceptable behaviour.

For example, imagine the behaviour you want to target is packing away toys at the end of the day:

  • Firstly, have a discussion with your child about why it is important to pack away their toys before dinner (e.g. it may be that straight after dinner there is family TV time, but in order for the whole family to spend time together the house needs to be tidy)
  • Work with your child to identify what “packing away toys” looks like (e.g. all toys in the toy box or on shelves with no toys left on the floor)
  • Ask your child to identify how many times this week they think they can have all their toys packed away before dinner (get them to start with setting a goal, starting off small, for example - 2 nights this week - the most important point is that they set the goal, not you)
  • Every night before dinner ask your child to give you an update on how they are going with their goal
  • Help them celebrate by telling them how proud you are of them setting goals and achieving them when they have packed away their toys (be specific in highlighting why their achievement of this goal is important e.g.

"I am so happy you packed away all your toys before dinner. This means we get to spend more time together as a family before bed. I love it when we all get to snuggle in together on the couch and watch TV."

  • At the end of the week, ask them if they think they can beat their current goal, and confirm what goal they will set for next week. Make sure you have both agreed on what the final goal will be (in this case, most likely packing away all toys every night before dinner).

If your child is having trouble reaching the goal, ask them what they could do differently in order to reach the goal (for example, do they need to check with you what time dinner will be ready so they know 10 minutes beforehand to start packing away?).

Taking this approach can help transform their thinking towards doing the right thing, because it's the right thing to do, rather than looking to external motivators (i.e. punishments or rewards) to motivate their behaviour.

If you would like to learn more about punishments, check out our article on "Why You Should Punish Your Kids".

References
Reeve, J. (2005). Understanding Motivation and Emotion: Fourth Edition. John Wiley & Sons: Danvers

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