How To Punish Bad Behavior

July 14, 2008 by  
Filed under Family & Parenting

how to punish a childIn today’s society, we as parents are limited on the methods or extent that we are allowed to punish our children. However, we are still responsible for our children’s behaviors. This can leave parents feeling extremely frustrated and often helpless. While not taking sides on issues that are better left to politicians, I am a strong believer that kids can learn from, and be punished for, negative behavior without the need to for physical punishment.

As a mother of 4 children I have faced almost every possible situation that would require me to punish one of my children. There have been times that they have tested my patience and self control.

I believe however, that they are as well behaved as they are in part because I have chosen to not use physical means of punishment. In fact, it is important to note that different behaviors warrant different punishments. For example: When my oldest daughter takes advantage of her cell phone privileges and calls her friends or accepts phone calls from her friends when she is suppose to be in bed, she loses her phone privileges. While if my youngest son were to run out in front of the street he would receive a verbal scolding and be put in time out.


The severity of punishment also depends on how many times an offense was committed.

The First Offense:

Let’s take the example of my daughter using her cell phone when she is not supposed to. On the first offense she will lose her phone for 1 day. Children are very intelligent and often explaining to them why they are not allowed to do something will prevent repeated offenses.

The Second Offense:

Kids are kids however, and if you are a parent you know that there are times when you simply cannot get through to your child on an adult level. In this example, increasing the duration of the original punishment will usually suffice. Removing cell phone privileges for 2 days or more can often “stress” the seriousness of your point of view. Be aware however, once you enter into this phase of the punishment, you are beginning a battle of wills. Children often “test” their parents and will not follow your rules simply as a way of contesting your authority. Most often they do not even realize why they are not obeying. This is yet another reason to avoid physical punishment if possible.

Regardless of the age of the child, removing an item or activity that they like for an extended period of time is punishment enough. My youngest child has special needs and for some children you will need to be especially patient.


NOTE: It is important to mention that during the second phase of punishment, consistency on your part is paramount. You MUST follow through with any warnings or threats that you have issued. This can be difficult, especially when it would be easier for you to “give in” to you child. For example: If your child has a birthday party coming up and you know that even if you tell your child that they may not attend because of something they have done, but you intend to let them go the whole time, you are not doing anyone, especially yourself, any good. If you tell your child that they cannot go to the birthday party, you need to have already decided that they are not going to go and expect them to beg, plead and cry when the day comes and stick to your guns.

The Third Offense:

The third offense is the most important and severe offense, requiring unique and inventive ways to punish your child. At this point, your previous methods of punishment have not worked and you need to think outside the box to find an effective way to impart the importance of being obeyed. All “testing” of the parent is done and this is the point where you put your foot down and take severe, but gentle, action.

Let’s refer back to the example of my daughter using her cell phone at the wrong time. At this point, I have expressed my expectations and demonstrated that not obeying my rules results in negative consequences for her. Having removed the cell phone for a few days at a time I have demonstrated that continuing the wrong behavior results in her losing the cell phone. For the third and FINAL offense I remove the cell phone permanently.  All privileges are revoked and the cell phone is cancelled or sold.

It is important to note that the third offense is the last offense. Your punishment should reinforce that concept, removing the ability for your child to repeat the offense.

In time, your child will learn that once they reach the second offense, they had better not “test” you any further. You will start to see that, while they will continue to challenge your authority through the first offense, your child will rarely repeat the behavior a second or third time.


Again, it is important to mention how important consistency and patience are. Just as you are training your child to follow the rules you set, you must also train yourself to follow through and remain calm. You should NEVER lose patience with a child. Stick to your rules and punishments and over time, your child will begin to comply with your rules without thinking about it.

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One Response to “How To Punish Bad Behavior”
  1. Brenda says:

    I NEVER use the threat of not allowing my child to go to someones party as a punishment, Why? because you are not only punishing your child but you also punish the childs who’s birthday it is. My sons friend was not allowed to come to my childs party and my son had planned all the things that he and his friend could do, My son spent most of the day sullen and depressed at his own party. Way to go mom…

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