Alternatives to punishment solutions

A crucial question that concerns parents, teachers, and experts is whether we should punish or not punish.

Undoubtedly, punishment has always sparked and continues to spark feelings of hatred, retaliation, contempt, guilt, worthlessness, and self-hatred.

Experts argue that the child should experience the consequences of inappropriate behavior, but not through punishment. Punishment does not bring the desired results because it is a distraction. Instead of the child feeling remorse for the act and working out ways of redress, he fantasizes about forms of retaliation. By imposing punishment, we deprive the child of the ability to deal with and correct the “error” he has committed.

Alternatives to punishment solutions:

1. Highlight beneficial actions, i.e., show the child how to be useful: “Do you know how you can help? Grab three lemons from the fridge!”

2. Expression of strong disapproval (without the use of reduced comments): “I’m furious! I found the new saw left outside and rusty by the rain!”

3. Externalizing expectations: “I demand that you return me the tools I lend to you.”

4. Indication of remedies: “To repair the damage, we need wire, plenty of grease, and strong arms.”

5. Allow election: “Choose: you will borrow my tools and return them, or you will lose the privilege of using them. It’s up to you.”

6. Action: “Child: Dad, the toolbox is locked. I don’t know. Father: You tell me why.”

7. Allow the child time to experience the consequences of the inappropriate act: “What can be done to use my tools when you need them, and I can rest assured that I will have them at my disposal when I want to use them?”

When the problem persists, it means it’s more complicated than we initially imagined. Complex problems require the application of complex techniques.


First ask: “Is this the right time to talk?” If you receive a positive response, follow these steps:

Step 1: Explore the child’s feelings and needs. Your attitude should show that it is essential to know how the child is feeling (“I imagine how you feel…”)

Step 2: Externalize your needs and feelings; here, it takes brevity and clarity. When he hears the parent babbling, referring to his worries, anger, or bitterness, the child resents. (“Now here’s how I feel.”)

Step 3: Work together ideas for a mutually acceptable solution. If possible, encourage the child to formulate their ideas first. Then, express your opinions – solutions.

Step 4: Record all ideas indiscriminately – without evaluating them. It is unnecessary to record them; however, the paper’s imprinting gives a solemnity to the whole process.

Step 5: Decide which sentences are likable and which are not. Avoid using derogatory comments (“what a foolish idea”). Instead, you can describe the feelings you have: “I’m worried about this because I’m sure I’m going to do it.”

Step 6: Proceed to plan for implementing what you have said: ‘What should we do to implement the plan?’ ‘What responsibilities will each of us take?’ ‘Shouldn’t we set a time limit for what we agreed?’

The most challenging part of applying the techniques to solve the problems lies in realizing the required change in our attitude. It is essential to stop treating the child as a “problem” that needs to be “fixed” and to abandon the idea that as adults, we always know the solution to the problem, and we are right on our side. We should eliminate the fear that if we do not show the necessary rigor and cruelty, the child will do whatever he wants. In this way, we stop treating children as victims or our enemies while, at the same time, we provide them with the necessary resources for active participation in solving the problems they will have to face.

… and some recommendations:

· The consequences are the natural result of the child’s behavior. It is much easier for children to learn lessons from the harsh reality of existing reactions than from a person who decides to punish them “for their good.”

· Do not engage in the search for the “guilty.” By avoiding blame and punishment, we allow children to focus on adopting a responsible attitude, rather than on the intention of retaliation.

· The expression of disapproval on the parent’s part needs to be heard sporadically, as long as it is not particularly strong. In this case, the child will feel unworthy and despised because of the “misdemeanor.” At the same time, the parent will have abused parental power, causing feelings of guilt and personal worthlessness in the child, which may catalytically affect his personality formation.

· If possible, in conjunction with disapproval, the parent must indicate to the child ways of redress. After the initial remorse on the child’s part, he should be allowed to restore positive feelings towards himself to regain self-esteem and the feeling that he remains a respected member of the family. Example: “I’m furious! The kid was playing until you came and took her rattle. Now you find a way to calm her down; she’s crying” Instead of: “You made the baby cry again. I’m going to hit you! “Such comments convey to the child the following message: “I did not like what you did, and I demand that you make amends.”

· Some children use “sorry” to appease the angry parent, but repeat the same “misconduct” at the first chance. It is essential that these children realize that appropriate actions must accompany real repentance: “I am glad that you acknowledge your mistake. It’s the first step. The second is to ask yourself what you can do to rectify the situation. »

· We do not always have to go through all stages to lead to the solution; the problem might be solved at any stage of the process; sometimes, merely describing the conflicting feelings of parent and child is enough to provide the solution.

· Some children refuse to get involved in the problem-solving process; in such cases, a note, written in the same spirit, might be the appropriate substitute.



Faber, A., Mazlish, E., (1999). How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk, Collins