Forget Time Outs! This is the Most Effective Punishment for My Kids

Family Matters on 03.20.12
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It seems that kids are getting harder and harder to punish these days. You can no longer give them a smack on the butt (not that I'm condoning that) and send them to their rooms, and a time out for my nearly six year old just doesn't have the same effect as it used to, although it honestly was never all that effective for my kids anyway. But I swear at least once a day I hear a parent say that they just can't get it through to their child that they won't tolerate a certain behavior. You know the phrase, "It's like I'm talking to a wall!" And it's not just the toddler set, but kids that are much older too. But I've found one thing that seems to work very consistently, and as I've recommended it to other parents, I've seen it work for them too, and I think it will work until they're well out of the house.

The Take-Away

The quickest and easiest way to get my kids to act the way I want them to is to take away their most prized possessions or privileges when they aren't behaving. I'm always very clear with what I am going to take away from them, and I take it away immediately if they misbehave. For instance I saw my daughter about to whack my computer with her baby doll stroller just yesterday and warned her that if she did it she would lose the stroller for the day. She did it, and up went the stroller onto a shelf she couldn't reach. She asked for it all day and night, but she didn't get it back even though her behavior was good the rest of the day. We have a spot high on a shelf where all the toys go when the kids misbehave. Sometimes they forget about them if I take away a toy that is the root of a disagreement, but most of the time they anxiously await their return. And I've even gone so far when my son was two to pack all of his toys into the back of my car for several days because it was the only place I could put such a large quantity of things and block access to them.

As the kids get older, the toys become less of the draw and the gadgets become more valuable to the kids. Even with my five year old, taking away his nighttime television usually gets him moving pretty quickly in the right direction. And when you threaten no more iPod or no more computer time, the reaction is the same. These items have become such a part of our kids' lives that they understand the gravity of not having them at their fingertips.

Same Move, Different Ages

I often think that when my children get older and start driving that I won't have a problem letting them have their own car (if we can afford it), but the second they step out of line, that will be the first thing that is taken away, and if it's for something major, you can bet I'll just put that car on the sale lot. It's important that kids understand at an early age that the many, many things that they have are privileges. And if they do not earn these privileges, they can very easily disappear. Of course we want to give our kids the best we can, but there's a point in determining where necessity crosses the line to privilege. It is not about scaring them into behaving, but teaching them that proper behavior has its perks.

Equally as important is rewarding our kids for good behavior. While it should be expected of them and they should know that, it is also important that they know that we have recognized their good behavior. It doesn't have to come in the form of a reward, but just a verbal acknowledgement that we noticed they used good manners or did what they were asked without having to be asked more than once. But what's most important is that we start doing these things while they are young before they become tweens and teens who talk back and become entitled as a result.

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