Raising children is difficult. As much as we love them and care for them, they combine two difficulties. First: They’re their own person capable of their own wants and needs. And second, they don’t necessarily understand how to adapt to your wants and needs (and those of society).
What that often means is that we have kids of all ages with unwanted behaviors, and we have to figure out ways to teach them the desirable behavior in order to help them grow.
Punishment is Often Not Effective Enough
Time outs. Shouting. Taking away toys. These punishments can have an impact, but they often do not provide the results that you’re looking for. What they tend to do is cause kids to perform behaviors they think will help them avoid punishment. But they aren’t necessarily looking for behaviors that will get them praise. This distinction is why you’ll sometimes find children sneaking around, or choosing a different unwanted behavior that they believe will prevent punishment rather than the desired one.
What Does Work?
There are many strategies that parents and caregivers can take to help their children learn better and psychologically healthier behaviors. These include, but are not limited to:
- Learning to Reward Over Punish – The best way to get more desirable behaviors is to reward children for good behaviors, rather than punish them for bad behaviors. Children are more effective at learning a new behavior when they have a desire to do it. The best way to give them that desire is to make sure they feel rewarded.
- Ignoring is Better Than Punishing – Of course, sometimes a reward isn’t possible, especially after an unwanted behavior. Instead of punishing the behavior, the best thing to do is ignore it whenever possible. This takes away the power of the behavior, and also ensures that you are avoiding accidentally reinforcing the behavior by providing negative attention.
- Staying Alert – Why is it that some parents punish more than they praise? Often the reason for this is that caregivers have a tendency to forget that the most wanted behaviors may be occurring when there is peace and quiet. If you see your child sitting still playing with toys, for example, it’s easy to be on your phone and forget that those are the behaviors you want. They deserve praise and reward. With it, the next time you acknowledge your child may be when they are doing something wrong.
Finally, make sure you’re always consistent. Don’t expect your child to necessarily learn these wanted behaviors right away. They still have so much growing to do, and that growth takes time that deserves your patience. If you find yourself having trouble managing your family dynamic, contact us today for family counseling on Long Island.