Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Parenting Ramblings: Punishment or Correction?

I am a mom. My husband and I raised our kids to think for themselves, be responsibly for their actions, and care about others, and for the most part I think we did okay.  My kids get decent grades, have good friends, and do their chores with only a little bit of sighing and eye-rolling.

Parenting discussions are a must for any parent, including the one where you discuss how to handle a misbehaving child.  I read all the books and magazine articles available at the time, talked to other parents, and watched other parents with their children.  It soon became apparent that there are two main ways to discipline kids:  through punishment and through correction.

Traditionally, parents used punishment for discipline.  From spanking to time-outs to losing toys, a child was punished for not behaving appropriately.  The reasoning behind punishment goes something like this:

A child does not want to be punished, so he will follow the rules to avoid punishment.
Only, children respond best to positive reinforcements instead of negative reinforcements.  And punishments may lead to a situation where a child does not care about the punishment, only about getting his way.  For example, punishing a child who doesn't do his homework by removing his TV time only works if that child cares about watching TV that night.

Correction, on the other hand, focuses on how to get a child to follow the rules, of correcting bad behavior. This means that there are several methods and means used when parents want to correct behavior.

Correction can mean having the consequences fit the action.  For example, if a kid doesn't put a game away properly (with all the pieces), he won't be able to play it again until he searches the house to find all the pieces.  Or, if a kid spills a glass of water, he needs to clean up the mess.

Correction can also mean earning rewards for conquering bad habits or earning rewards for creating good habits.  For example, praising a child for putting his dishes away after dinner without you needing to remind him.  Or taking your kid on a surprise trip to the park for putting his school stuff away all week instead of throwing his backpack willy nilly around the front door.

In my experience, correction works much better than punishment, so long as I'm willing to put the effort into making the correction appropriate to the problem.  Punishing a child is somewhat easier, because you can use the same punishment generally for every situation.  But correction takes work, because what is appropriate for one scenario is not for another.  The equates to you and your spouse having discussion about how to approach correction, since most of the time only one parent will be around to handle the situation.

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