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Alternatives to punishment

I have been discussing the book ‘How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk’, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish on my Face Book group page. The 3rd chapter, ‘Alternatives to Punishment’ in the book is worth a read. It has lots of examples and cartoons which I like.

The main theme in this chapter is that punishment does not work. On p94, Dr Ginott states that when you punish a child, they ‘do not feel sorry about what they have done and try to make amends, they become preoccupied with revenge fantasies.’

This takes a big shift in our thinking. As parents we want our children to respect us and do what we tell them to do. The chapter concentrates on problem solving to find solutions and you can try this with children as young as 3. The parent sits down with their child, both share their ideas and write down how to solve the problem. No judgement is made about the ideas. The ideas are discussed and crossed off the list if they won’t work.


…’We can put our energy into searching for solutions that respect both our needs as individuals.’

One example on p133 is about a child aged 5, who keeps coming into her parent’s room in the middle of the night. Sound familiar?

The first thing to do is to find the right time for both of you to discuss the problem.

Mom: ‘I want to talk about the ‘middle of the night’ problem.’

Mom asks her daughter how she is feeling about the situation,

‘Can you tell me how you feel about this situation that is making us both unhappy?’

Daughter: ‘I just want to come into your room, I can’t stay in my room.’

Mom expresses how she feels,

‘After a day at work, I want to snuggle up in bed and fall asleep. When I am awakened, I’m not a friendly mommy.’

Mom suggests finding a solution and takes out a pad and paper. Nothing is off limits.

Daughter suggests:

1.Continuing to come into mom’s bed.

2.To wake mom up.

3.To buy a lamp so she could read/ draw.

There are no suggestions from mom in this example but elsewhere in this chapter are suggestions from parents.

After discussing the suggestions, they agreed to cross off the first 2 suggestions but decided to buy a lamp.

This seemed to work, the daughter stayed in her room and drew at night. She did not go through to her mom’s room and wake her up.

Do you think this would work in your house?

The chapter also discusses other strategies- this one is about taking your small child shopping and the chid is running around and misbehaving. This is on p96.

  1. Point out how to be helpful (instead of 'you are going to get it when your father gets home' try 'it would be helpful to pick out 3 lemons'.

  2. Express a strong disapproval - do not attack character (instead of 'you are acting like a wild animal' try 'I do not like what is going on, it disturbs other shoppers when children run in aisles.' Note, that you are talking about the behavior and not the child.

  3. State your expectation (instead of 'if I catch you running again I will smack you' ,try 'Billy, no running, you can walk or sit in the cart'.

  4. Show your child how to make amends (this example is when they break something)

  5. Offer a choice- see number 3

  6. Take action- (instead of smacking them, try placing them in the cart and say 'I see you decided to sit in the cart'.

  7. If your child continues to misbehaves, allow a child to experience the consequence of their misbehavior. The next day they are not allowed to go to the store with you.

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