Parenting styles have evolved significantly over the past few decades. It has come to the attention of many parents that the act of punishing their children may not only be ineffective but counterproductive.
Naturally, this raises a few concerns. If you don’t punish your children, how can you ensure they do the right thing, or at least try to? And how will your relationship with them change as a result of an inability to correct them forcefully? To help you out, here are six ways to maintain a positive relationship with children without punishing them.
1. Empathize and Connect First
Children feel a lot of immense emotions that they don’t know how to process. Most tantrums involve a colossal rush of fight-vs-flight hormones, adrenaline, and heightened reactivity. In these situations, kids are unable to learn. Whether you punish them or not, they’re not going to be receptive to new lessons.
This is why an essential first step in these situations is to start by connecting and empathizing.
- “You sound very angry about what happened.”
- “Why are you upset? Use your words.”
- “It sounds like you’re scared to tell me about what happened.”
- “Things aren’t going well for you today, are they?”
- “It looks like you wanted to use that, but your brother got it first! Being patient can be so difficult!”
- “I know it seems fun to do that. That’s why you wanted to, even though it’s dangerous.”
- “It’s okay if you feel upset.”
- “I am listening.”
When you connect with your child in this manner, you’re showing that you genuinely understand where they’re coming from and won’t punish them for what happened. This can help to calm them down, encouraging their positive thinking and improved communication skills.
2. Be A Role Model
If you want a child to learn without the need for punishment, the onus is on you to be a positive example in their life. It can feel like a lot of pressure, but it’s one of the best ways to maintain good relationships with your children. After all, kids learn by example, so teaching them positive things through your actions is a great way to go about it. Here’s how to do so:
· Regulate Your Emotions
It’s human sometimes to have your emotions run wild, but if you do it too often, your kids will begin to think that throwing tantrums is an acceptable response to strong feelings. Take a deep breath and stay calm when in front of your child. If you have a strong emotional reaction, show how you calm yourself down and work through the feeling, explaining this to your child.
· Do What You Want Them To Do
Want your child to do chores? Do them yourself first! When you do things around the house, young kids will automatically want to copy you to feel involved. This is a great way to make chores and tasks a part of a child’s life simply and positively.
· Perform The Skills You Want Them To Learn
Want your child to learn better problem-solving skills? Please show them your problem-solving process, breaking down each step in front of them. Want your child to respond better to corrections? Show how you respond with positive thinking to corrections made against you. Your child will observe the behavior you have and hone those same skills by observing and putting it into practice.
3. Set Rules and Limits Clearly, but Cleverly
All families need some form of limits and rules. While some children naturally fall in line without them, setting boundaries and limits ensures that you and your kids know what to expect. If you cleverly set these rules, you’ll have positive results. Here’s how to do it:
· Ask, Don’t Demand
When you ask children to do something, you’re putting some agency into their hands, showing them that they don’t need to fight for freedom, only that they have to consider other people’s needs. On the other hand, demands can be constricting, and they can build resentment and make children want to rebel. Let’s face it: children want to feel like they made the decision, even when it was your cleverly phrases request that prompted them!
· Say “Yes” A Lot
This doesn’t mean saying “yes” to everything in the technical sense. Instead, it means using positive language for things your child usually doesn’t want to do. For example, you may say something like, “Yes, it’s time to clean up!” or “Yes, you can complain about that as long as you follow it.” These sentences make kids feel like they’re getting a bit of a compromise, and they often are, and it also helps them feel like they are being catered to. With that positive thinking, they’re likely to follow your requests!
· Make It Clear That You Understand
Kids often find rules to be constricting, but they are necessary in many cases. If you want a child to obey rules, you have to help them feel understood. Show that you understand where your child is coming from by acknowledging their wants and needs. Offer alternatives, provide explanations where needed, and make statements of empathy that show you understand where their feelings come from. When a kid feels listened to, they are more willing to accept limits.
If you want a child to do good things and don’t want to punish them for promoting this, you can act by looking for any positive behavior and pointing it out with praise and pride. Kids tend to respond very well to affection and attention, so this method can work wonders for maintaining a positive relationship with them without punishment. Here’s how to start:
· Be Generous With Praise
Your kid shouldn’t have to perform an incredible feat of might to be praised. Please point out the good things they do and tell them that you’re proud of them for it. Tell them that they’re doing well in the ways that they’re improving and behaving positively. This lets children know which actions they should continue performing and can motivate them to try harder.
· Use Rewards
Rewarding positive behavior is a great way to keep your relationship with your kids strong. You’ll want to use this in moderation, though, to teach your child to be intrinsically motivated. When they need a little external push, though, rewards can help take them all the way!
· Don’t Use Negative Reinforcement
Although it can work in some cases, for the most part, negative reinforcement is almost laughably bad at promoting any improvement of a child’s behavior, say studies. Steer clear of using this kind of reinforcement and focus instead on reinforcing good things with positive feedback.
5. Teach How To Correct
Lots of kids can be taught when something they’re doing is wrong, but few of them learn how to correct themselves or correct their wrongs. This is where many parents resort to punishment, even when they try to keep things positive at first. The good news is that there are ways to teach kids to correct behavior and repair what was harmed in the process:
· Ask To Talk About What Happened
Kids of different ages will have different capabilities when it comes to having serious conversations. You will likely know your child well enough to understand how far this can be taken. With that in mind, after a bout of misbehavior, take your child aside and talk to them about what occurred. Explain to them how you feel and what you’d like to happen next time, and ask them if they have any thoughts to share. Remember to be open. The goal is to learn what your kid thinks and guide them.
· Offer Alternatives
Children may often make the same mistake repeatedly because they don’t know any other way to handle something. Offer alternative options to your kid by telling them what they can do the next time they feel angry, upset, or want your attention. Then, when they use the preferred options, give them positive reinforcement!
· Model Reparation
If your child does something that harms others, you can teach them to make reparations for their actions by modeling the behavior. Teach them how to make things up to others and model the empathy you want them to give. They will soon see how you “fix” complex situations and apologize when you do wrong, and they’ll be able to follow suit.
6. Understand Your Role
You are a parent, and that’s your role in the life of your children. You are present to teach them, love them, and help them grow into good people. Understanding this role profoundly helps you to maintain a positive relationship with your kids, even when they’re trying your patience. Here are some tips for better understanding your role:
· Don’t Take It Personally
Kids say mean things without knowing that they’re mean. They can be tactless and often don’t comprehend your efforts, and they aren’t great at managing emotions as they learn how the world works. The things they do aren’t things you should take personally because they’re either not meant personally or done out of a lack of understanding.
· Understand What Misbehavior Means
We know children are often misguided. Misbehavior is almost always a direct reflection of a need that they are having trouble communicating. Once you understand that, you’ll have a much easier time dealing with their rebellion. The tantrums they throw and the disobedience of their actions are a reflection of deeper issues that they don’t know how to communicate.
· Keep Your Expectations Reasonable
Is your main expectation of your kids their obedience? You may want to rethink this. Children are still learning and will have moments where they are frustrating, full of mistakes, rebellious. That’s part and parcel of life, and being hell-bent on total obedience will only backfire. Learn to keep reasonable expectations of your children and foster your relationships instead of insisting on perfection.
Final Thoughts On Some Ways To Maintain A Positive Relationship With Children Without Punishment
Punishment often doesn’t work on children, and there is little to no reason to regularly use extreme punishments. Learning to improve and promote a positive relationship with your child without punishment is tricky, but it’s a worthwhile endeavor that fosters long-term familial connections.