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4 Reasons to Choose Discipline Over Punishment

From the Show: Naturally Savvy
Summary: Being a parent can be tough. From tantrums that come out of nowhere to naughty behaviors, how can you balance discipline with punishment?
Air Date: 11/19/14
Duration: 10
Host: Andrea Donsky, RHN and Lisa Davis, MPH
Guest Bio: Jay Fitter, MFT
Jay Scott Fitter, MFT, has two decades of experience as a licensed marriage and family therapist, and is a popular parenting workshop leader, speaker, and the author of a new book, Respect Your Children: A Practical Guide to Effective Parenting.
  • Book Title: Respect Your Children: A Practical Guide to Effective Parenting
  • Guest Twitter Account: @familyanswerman
4 Reasons to Choose Discipline Over Punishment
Being a parent can be extremely challenging. From tantrums that come out of nowhere to naughty behaviors, it can be truly difficult to handle it all.

So, what is the best way to discipline without resorting to punishment?

One big element is respect. Not just expecting your kids to respect you as a parent, but also having a mutual respect for your kids.

Now, this doesn't mean that you're giving over authority to your kids or letting them control the household. So many parents mistake giving their kids respect as putting them in charge, when really it has nothing to do with control.

As a parent, it's your responsibility to help guide your children; to create the rules and direct them on how to live with those rules. Respecting your children is an attitude... the way you see them and interact with them; NOT a sense of ownership.

Think about some of the negative things parents say or do to their kids. "Shut up," or "get out of here," or even actions like hitting out of anger all reflect that sense of ownership, rather than thinking of your children as the most important people in the world to you.

In this segment, family therapist, Jay Fitter, MFT, joins Lisa to share reasons why you should choose discipline over punishment.

Reason #1: Punishment Leads to Overreacting

Typically, punishment is spontaneous and not thought through; it's simply a reaction to a situation. A spanking or telling your teen, "No computer for a month!" are both examples of just reactionary punishments. Oftentimes the punishment doesn't fit the crime.

Reason #2: Punishing Doesn't Teach Lessons

Well, appropriate lessons, anyway. The only lesson it does teach is that if someone does something you don't like, you can hit them or do anything you have to do to get them to comply to your wants; without even considering what is going on in their world. This is often manifested in kids who bully... they experienced the same type of behavior in their own home. That's how they were taught to deal with certain situations, and thus the only way they know how.

Reason #3: Parents and Children are Mismatched

This is oftentimes more evident with fathers and children. Think about it... in many ways, you're not on the same level as your kids. Physically, you're probably several times bigger and stronger than them. Mentally, you're far more intelligent than them. You have all of these life skills and knowledge that you've accumulated over the years, and by resorting to punishment, you're not taking into consideration the differences between you and your kids. As a result, many kids will react with fear... certainly not the type of relationship you want to foster with your children. You want your kids to be able to openly share and interact with you, not avoid you out of fear.

Reason #4: Punishment Creates a Fear-Based Relationship

This is especially important as your kids enter junior high school and high school; a time when you really want your kids to be open and honest with you about what is going on in their lives. But, you lay the foundation for that relationship when your kids are still very young. If there's a sense of distrust or fear between you and your kids, when they get older, they're going to remember that and essentially not want to have anything to do with you. They won't likely open up about problems they're having at school, either with a teacher or other kids (including a boyfriend/girlfriend).

Rather, you want to develop a positive relationship where your kids feel comfortable coming to you, without fear of retaliation or how you're going to respond.

If you're not using punishment, though, how can you effectively correct unwanted behaviors in your kids?

One big factor, if you have a two-parent household, is that you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to discipline. Even if you're a single parent, the underlying understanding should be that you want to correct the behavior, not simply squash it with a form of punishment. Think of it in terms of, "how can I help my child?"

And, positive reinforcement when your kids do something good is also very beneficial in molding behaviors for later in life.

Listen in for more tips on how to effectively discipline your kids without resorting to harsh punishments, as well as ways to foster the best relationship between you and your kids.