I was coaching a client today with a 7-year-old who is having big challenges with his behavior at school. The parents wanted to know how to make the boy know how seriously wrong his behavior was. They wanted to know if I would recommend taking something away or grounding him.
They were asking how to punish him with the old belief that children learn best when parents show who’s boss by making them “suffer” in some way. One big problem with punishment is that its focus is to show how bad the child is but it doesn’t teach what to do instead.
I encouraged them to listen more in order to learn the goal of the boy’s negative behavior. It seems that he was trying to get connected / a feeling of belonging, to another boy through a negative approach. So, I suggested they have a discussion with him about the results of his choice that got him into trouble at school. Ask him questions in a caring manner. How does this make the boy he hurt emotionally feel? Is his tactic accomplishing what he wants to make a friend or to be acknowledged?
Their son regretted his behavior which is what we want. We want him to feel bad about his behavior. Remorse is good as long as he doesn’t think that he is a bad person.
The next step is to discuss ideas for the boy to make amends; to make it up to the boy he said bad things to. When he reflects and discusses a different way to approach the boy next time, there is a much better chance that his behavior will improve. Share ideas about how he could make friends with others in a positive way. Let him decide what he’ll do next time. Don’t tell him; let him decide on a new approach. This way, he is invested in learning a better path.
In summary, if you are thinking, I need to make my child learn. How do I make them feel bad to learn, you are using punishment. Instead think, how do I guide my child to reach their goals with positive behavior instead? This approach involves discussion with the child and thus the child becomes a problem solver together with you. Discipline builds a connection between you and your child and the child’s ability to change and make a bad situation better.
Learn more about punishment and discipline in my article Finding a New Discipline Path
Copyright 2022 – Cynthia Klein, Family Happiness Expert – Coach, speaker, and author of Ally Parenting: A Non-Adversarial Approach to Transform Conflict Into Cooperation. Learn more about Cynthia’s services and contact her at her website, https://bridges2understanding.com. Contact Cynthia for permission to reproduce any information from this article.