Is Punishment Really Necessary?

Alternative to Punishment #2: Evaluate

~ By FLV Expert Panelist, Ashley Ryan

It’s time for Part 2 of the Special The 7 Effective Alternatives to Punishment E-Report

Alternative to Punishment #2: EVALUATE
Don’t react too fast when your child does something you don’t want them to be doing. Take a breath or a moment to “evaluate” the situation.

You see, if you react too fast, you’ll miss the underlying causes to the bad behavior – but if you take a moment to evaluate your child, you’ll discover the underlying causes of your child’s behavior.

Which you may be able to solve relatively easily.

Many children make innocent mistakes that are interpreted as bad behaviour. Although our children always impress and surprise us at how quick they are growing, and how intelligent they are, it’s important to remember that they are constantly learning. That’s why young children go through a “why” stage, when all they ask you is “why this” and “why that.”

Remember, it’s our job as parents to provide them with the information they need so that they don’t make simple mistakes that cause unnecessary stress. As you know, parenting is demanding enough as it is; the last thing we need is a child who is unnecessarily defiant and problematic.

Here’s an example of “evaluating”:

If your 1-year-old pours milk on the floor and you “punish” him, by shouting, snapping, or getting upset, then you’ll only end up with a confused, hurt and upset child.

You see, it would be silly to punish a 1-year-old for pouring milk on the floor when he or she can’t yet understand the concept of gravity, let alone know that they shouldn’t do that.

The truth about babies, toddlers and children, is that most of the time they are simply responding to their natural human instinct to explore and define the world around them.

Exploration and learning is an instinctual drive for the human species, which is why almost every human grows up with hobbies or interests. Even if our hobby ends up being TV. What keeps our attention is a curiosity and a drive to learn things.

So what happens when a young child, who is exploring their world, has their curiosity punished?

Well, they begin to think and feel like the world is unsafe.

When a child no longer trusts his or her world as being a safe place to explore, play, and learn, then the child becomes less confident and more fearful.

Also, when a child is punished without understanding why, they become tense because there is a loss of connection and security, with their caregiver and protector — the parent.

This tension causes stress, and interferes with the child’s ability to think clearly and lovingly.

So How Do You “Evaluate” The Situation More Effectively?

We recommend giving your child the benefit of the doubt.

So whenever your child does something that upsets you, first, assume that your child has done nothing wrong.  Second, evaluate these two points:

1. How you could have prevented this situation?

2. What is the real reason for their behavior?

In the case of the 1-year-old pouring milk on the floor; you can first look at the situation like this:

“My child is young and it looks to me like she’s doing an experiment, she’s clearly not out to upset me.”

As any parent can attest, children often want to explore in ways that can be stressful to us parents. Yet, children rarely have ill intent towards us, unless they are “acting out” due to stress and unresolved tension.

If you want to raise a self-competent and self-confident child, who is genuinely happy, then your child needs to be taught that it’s safe to explore.

Teach them that they are not wrong, nor bad, for exploring — even when they make mistakes along the way. They can learn creative ways to fix their mistakes or avoid them the next time if they’re giving the freedom to explore and discover the limits of their world in a safe environment.

Remember… they’re just doing what children do, enjoying themselves. So, in a situation like the one above, it’s critical to take a step back and evaluate the situation from a clear perspective.

Because it’s when we react from emotion, we often regret what we did or said later.

This emotional reaction is usually based on assumption instead of the reality of our child’s developmental needs and state of awareness.

As parents, we often assume our child is trying to make us upset, and we react before we take a moment to look at the situation from our child’s state of being and perspective.

Remember, your child wants your love and approval above all else.

The currency of love and approval is attention.

They may do things that trigger you in order to get your attention.

A clear evaluative stance can give you a better understanding of what’s really going on and give you some time to *think*…

…before you react.

Be mindful, small children do not have a lot of information. They are brand new and just starting out in the world.

It’s your job as the loving parent to provide them with the information they need, appropriate to their age level.

Going back to the 1-year-old milk-spiller…if this was your child, trying to explain the concept of gravity to them is useless. They won’t understand what you’re talking about, and they are so young that they can’t remember not to do it again based on an explanation.

A preferred course of action would be to set them up in the bathtub, sink, or outside with a bowl filled with water. So they can explore the joys of liquid and gravity in an environment where they have more freedom to make a mess in their exploration.

This takes us back to PREVENTION — the First Effective Alternative to Punishment that we introduced to you last week.

If you’re inspired, you can provide your young one with simple information from the start. If your baby pours milk on the floor you can say something along the lines of:

“Oh, it looks like that’s interesting for you…How about I set this up in the sink, as I don’t want to clean up the mess of spilt milk again.”

Then you can give your child a nice bath with a plastic cup for them to play with dumping water out in the tub, instead of making a mess that just gives you more work to do.

So, if you’re tempted to punish your child, stop yourself and first evaluate the situation…

Second be empathetic, put yourself in your child’s shoes and figure out what the real reason for your child’s misbehavior is.

Thirdly, if your child is quite young, keep in mind that everything is new to your little one.

Remember that your child is just a child, even though at times it feels like they are manipulative know-it-all’s, they are in fact very young and innocent to the world. Children will model your example because what they want more than anything is your love and attention.

Try this the next time your child does something that upsets you…

Stop and don’t do anything at all.

Don’t say anything.

Don’t move.

Just be there for a moment…

…and Evaluate.

Ask yourself if you really think your child is trying to hurt or upset you.

Then from a place of clarity, consciously choose not to punish.

Practice this as much as you can over the course of the week.

Evaluating and empathizing instead of punishing.

If you feel that it’s difficult, that’s okay, it’s part of the process.

For Ashley’s next article on the 3rd Alternative to Punishment, you’ll learn…
* How asking one simple question can dramatically increase your child’s cooperation.
* One critical mistake most parents make in trying to stop naughty behavior.
* The truth about toddlers and what you can expect from your child’s age group. (This is critical, as different ages need to be treated accordingly.)
* How what you say is JUST as important as how you say it, if you want your little one to listen.

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