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What To Do When Punishment Doesn’t Work on Kids?

If your method does not work, you are wrong; but a harsh punishment won’t do the trick.

Have you tried disciplining your child, and they just move on? Or you expect a reaction, and you get nothing, or the child refuses to respond with appropriate behavior? This can be possible when your child does not react to traditional punishments. You might be lost on what to do when punishment doesn’t work on your kids.

They don’t seem to care about timeouts or any other kind of punishment and refuse to follow the rules. Parents can become frustrated with the lack of progress and retaliate with more severe punishments that may result in name-calling due to anger, which is not fair or effective.

Teach children what appropriate behavior is from a young age by having conversations with them. Make them feel heard, and assure your kids of your unconditional love for them. This will contribute to their healthy development.

The parent-child relationship

This type of relationship refers to a caregiver’s exceptional and lifelong connection with their child. We must analyze ways parents and children interact physically, emotionally, and socially to better comprehend the parent-child relationship.

Consider your parents. What role did your bond with your parents play in shaping who you are today, if at all? Many psychologists feel that our interactions with our parents and children significantly impact who we become and how we interact with others and the world.

Parental self-esteem is a key measure of parental competence. Mothers who consider themselves good parents are more competent than mothers who think otherwise. In addition, women who regard themselves as effective believe their infants are easier to handle.

Parents are the foundation of family life; that’s why their age and their previous experience are also key factors. Compared to younger moms, older mothers are more receptive to their infants.

Furthermore, parents with prior child-rearing experience, whether through younger siblings, professional routes, or previous children, are frequently better prepared to cope with motherhood.

Here are some discipline tips:

  • Show your children right from wrong with calm words and actions. Show behaviors you would like to see in your children because you are a big influence on them.
  • Make clear and consistent rules and regulations your children can follow. Ensure you explain the rules and regulations in the appropriate terms for your child’s age range so they can understand.
  • Explain the repercussions of their actions if they do not behave and be prepared to follow through with your punishment.
  • When you pay attention by listening and communicating with your child, you will understand the reasons behind their actions and decide if punishment is needed or just a correction.
  • Attention is a vital tool for enforcing discipline. All children want their parent’s attention.
  • Kids need to know when they do good and bad things. When you observe good behavior, point it out and praise them for it. (For example, when you go to the grocery store to purchase some items and your child acts calmly throughout the whole period giving you less to worry about, you should praise the child for that.)
  • Ignoring bad behavior from your child can be a form of effective discipline. When you give little or no attention to your child’s excesses, they begin to adjust from those attitudes searching for other ways to get your attention.
  • Prepare for the times when your child would misbehave and handle it properly. Also, have your child prepared for upcoming activities and let them know how you want them to behave.

Consequences need to be strategic

What to do when punishment doesn't work on your kids

Taking a child’s concerns seriously and minimizing parent-child confrontations are not the same as babying them. It’s at the heart of many “zero-discipline” tactics, and what is motherhood if not teaching children to make good choices?

However, occasionally bad behavior patterns persist, and children must be disciplined. The key to determining an effective plan of action is to base it on the natural consequences of their activities.

If the child’s behavior hasn’t changed, the new penalty isn’t solving the problem, and parents should attempt a different approach. It’s great if their own behavior improves. The penalty works, and parents should remember to compliment their children on their improved behavior.

A child's behavior

What to do when punishment doesn't work on your kids

The “I don’t care” response is common with a child that does not respond to punishments. A child might reply, “I don’t care” when you take away their privileges because they don’t want their parents to know it affects them.

Here are some ways to re-evaluate whether they care about consequences:

Punishment or Consequence?

Logical consequences have a purpose and are meant to train the child, opening their eyes to their mistakes and the results. The consequence has a purpose and helps the child work toward something.

On the other hand, punishment is the bitter sibling; it lacks progress. It makes many parents feel “even,” and it helps the child work off “something.”

Is the consequence too tolerant?

Threats and consequences are two different things. When you say what will happen, it’s not the same as actually doing it. You need to carry out your warnings so they will believe you.

Is the punishment too severe?

Anger is never a good thing when dishing out punishments. It clouds the mind and can make you lose self-control over your actions. Stay calm or take a few minutes to feel in control before giving consequences. It becomes a power struggle if you take it too far, and your intended impact will be lost.

What type of consequences to use?

If the consequence you’re using right now does not affect the child’s behavior, then you might need to take a step back, reflect and try another method. In sibling rivalry, effective consequences like confiscating phones would only work on phone violations.

Tailor your discipline to your child’s needs. Try giving your child an opportunity to explain themselves, so there’s room for understanding.

3-5 years old

What to do when punishment doesn't work on your kids

As your kid is growing and beginning to acknowledge the consequences of their actions, this is the time to start setting rules and values for the family.

Explain to your kids your clear expectations right before punishing them. The first moment your kid smears the wall with paint, discuss your child’s attitude and why that would not be tolerated so that both of you are on the same page.

If the kid repeats their wrongdoings, then what? Give a reminder about the right thing that should be done.

Sometimes it might be easier to ignore children’s bad behavior or not carry out the threats. Empty threats sabotage your authority as a parent and increase the possibility of your kids testing your limits. Being consistent is vital in making discipline effective, and it’s good for parents to decide the rules and then sustain them.

Discipline isn’t only restricted to punishment, but it’s also about identifying and rewarding good behavior. Remember to reward the good behavior just as you discipline the bad ones. Don’t think your praises don’t positively affect your children.

Statements, for example, “You made me proud by sharing with your friends,” are more influential than punishing your child for not sharing. Instead of simply saying “Good Job,” be particular when complimenting a child. You want to make it obvious the behaviors you enjoyed.

This increases the likelihood of their occurrence again in the future. The more attention we pay to a behavior, the more likely it will continue.

When your kid continues to misbehave despite your efforts in disciplining them, outline a chart with sections for the days of the week. Choose several wrongdoings that would warrant a punishment to be administered, or the period the good behavior must have been noticed, then the child can be rewarded.

Place the outlined chart on a visible section of your home, and then keep track of the good and the bad characters every day. This gives you and your child a physical representation of how it’s progressing. As it starts to work, compliment your child for learning self-control of his bad attitudes and outgrowing any stubborn issues.

Time out also works great for children this age. Choose a place in the family home suitable for timeout and is without distractions. Remember that sending your child to their room won’t work if they have access to a computer, television, or video games. As a result, there are no distractions. A timeout is also a break from any form of relationship.

You or other family members should pay attention to the child in a timeout. This includes talking and making eye contact.

Make sure you think about the length of time that works for your children. Experts say 1 minute multiplied by the year of age is a good rule of thumb. In contrast, others recommend that the timeout should be used until the child has calmed down as a way to teach your kids self-regulation.

Always set clear rules. Instead of saying, “Could you pack your bags?” say, “Pack your bags.” This gives no room for misunderstanding and shows the following direction isn’t a choice.

6-8 years old

Timeouts and consequences can be good discipline tactics in this age range.

Consistency is important. Follow through on all threats of discipline, or you would risk sabotaging your authority and losing control. Children need to know that you mean what you say at this age. This isn’t to suggest you shouldn’t allow for second chances or a certain margin of error, but you should, for the most part, follow through on what you say.

Be cautious not to make unrealistic threats because not carrying them out will weaken your impact and control. They will not believe you anymore. If you make a threat to not take them out for pizza and milkshakes if they don’t clean their room, then do that exactly. The credibility you get in return means so much more than a missed outing.

Avoid dishing out long punishments as a kid may feel less motivated towards changing because the worst has already happened. Setting some goals for youngsters to reclaim privileges taken away due to bad behavior may be beneficial.

9-12 years old

What to do when punishment doesn't work on your kids

Natural consequences can be used to discipline children within this age range and children of all ages. When they’re older and want more independence and responsibility, make sure they’re dealing with the repercussions of their actions as a discipline strategy.

Try to let natural consequences play out once in a while. “Expression of disappointment or disapproval of a parent also can serve as a consequence.”

A parent wanting to save their children from error is because of instinct. When children see the consequences of inappropriate behavior, they are less likely to repeat it. However, parents help their children better over time by allowing them to make mistakes.

Create your own consequences to help your kid if the natural consequences are ineffective. Taking away privileges like technology is a powerful consequence for this age group.

13 years and above

What to do when punishment doesn't work on your kids

You’ve already established the foundation. Your child understands what is expected of him and that the consequences for a bad character are serious. Don’t let your guard down. Teen discipline is equally as crucial as discipline for children of younger age.

Set ground rules for homework, friend visits, dating, and curfew, and talk about them with your teen ahead of time to avoid any misconceptions. Your teen may complain now and then, but they will also realize that you are in charge.

As you give them more independence and responsibility, kids still require you to set the limits and impose order in their kids’ lives.

Remember to offer your adolescent some autonomy. This won’t only reduce the amount of power clashes you have but also teaches your teen to adhere to the decisions you must make and improve their problem-solving skills.

Allowing a young teenager to decide about school attire, hairstyles, and even their room design is an option. When your teens begin to grow older, you may be able to expand that control to include a more lenient curfew on occasion.

When your teen breaks a rule, it may appear like taking away privileges is the wisest course of action. While it’s fine to take the car away for a week, be sure to also talk about why staying up an hour over curfew is improper and concerning.

Words About Spanking

These are reasons why spanking is frowned upon by experts:

  • Spanking implies to children that hitting is acceptable when they are furious.
  • Spanking can be harmful to children’s health.
  • Instead of teaching children how to improve their behavior, spanking brings fear in the relationship with their parents. It makes them learn how to avoid being caught.
  • Spanking can be seen as a reward to children who act out to seek attention, prefer inadequate attention to not getting any attention.

Verbal Abuse

Most parents become upset and furious with their children at some point. They occasionally say things they afterward regret to their children, spouses, or friends. However, if you find that you have frequent furious outbursts or that you lash out at individuals around you in the methods mentioned above when you’re frustrated, you should seek treatment.

3 signs that a child is suffering from verbal abuse

  • Negative self-image.
  • Self-destructive acts.
  • Antisocial behavior.

Problems with Spanking

What to do when punishment doesn't work on your kids

In addition to being an inadequate solution to behavioral problems, spanking a child can create more problems in the future.

It doesn’t instill appropriate conduct

A spanked child arguing with a sibling will not learn to get along with their siblings better in the future. Effective discipline develops a child’s competency and confidence by teaching them new abilities. Spanking undermines trust and self-esteem while teaching a youngster not to do something.

It is a model of aggression

Children are more influenced by what their parents do than what they say. You’re giving a mixed message if you spank your child for striking their sibling, for example. Studies have linked Spanking to increased aggressive behavior, mental health issues, and other negative consequences for children (similar to the impact of being physically abused).

It causes embarrassment

A youngster may believe, “I’m horrible,” and suffer from self-esteem, trust, and mental health concerns if a parent has struck them. Children who are ashamed are less motivated to change their conduct and grow to believe that they are powerless to do it.

When you hit a child to get them to change their conduct, you’re telling them that they can’t learn more positively and that they don’t deserve to be treated with respect. Discipline that is gentler and builds a child’s self-confidence is more successful.

It shifts the focus to the parent’s actions

The spanking-avoidance dynamic may encourage lying. Spanking, rather than encouraging your child to consider what they could do differently next time, is more likely to make them upset with their parents. In this situation, children begin to think, “What can I do that won’t get me spanked?” rather than “What is the best choice I can make right now?”

Over time, it loses its effectiveness

Occasionally, children conclude that misbehaving is “worth it.” They may become “accustomed” to corporal punishment, which loses its effectiveness as a deterrent.

Understanding the reason for the conduct and having an honest and open talk with the child is a more effective disciplining technique. Discipline is about educating and directing, but punishment involves inflicting discomfort or agony.

It is ineffective for older children and teenagers

What will you do when your child reaches the age of adolescence if you have always used spanking to discipline them? Physical punishment teaches children that it is OK for the stronger person to harm someone who does something they dislike. Instead of dealing with the root of the child’s behavior, spanking uses shame and pain to discourage and punish.

It isn’t Doctor-approved

You can use various age-appropriate discipline strategies instead of spanking your kids throughout their life. According to a survey of pediatricians published in the journal Pediatrics in 2018, only 6% of the experts polled supported spanking. Only 2.5% of those who used the disciplinary exercise expected positive results.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to punishment, the key is to make sure that it is actually effective. There is no point in punishing someone if it doesn’t actually change their behavior. Now that you know there are several approaches on what to do when punishment doesn’t work on your kids, you can try any of those and see what works. It’s also helpful to find out what is causing the bad behavior in the first place and address that issue. Whatever you do, don’t give up. With a bit of creativity and perseverance, you should be able to find a way to get through to your child.


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