Proponents of positive discipline argue that punishments should not be used. Research shows that punishment is generally not the best way to solve problems, and we have offered in this book a variety of alternative strategies proven to be more effective (see Magic Ways 1 to 5). Parents often perceive punishment to be a good strategy because they think it will help their child experience consequences and learn from mistakes to avoid repeating the same behavior. However, the reality is that punishment is often accompanied by anger, and anger rarely works to convince a child that they should behave differently.
Research shows that punished children often build up resentment toward the punisher, with negative consequences including resentment toward and rebellion against parents (Nelsen, 20067). Punishment remains a popular strategy with most parents, because it is an easy way to feel in control, even if it rarely works. We suggest replacing hard punishment and anger with:
1) Connecting and suggesting fun alternatives (as outlined in Magic Ways 1 to 5),
2) Respectful discipline, which defines firm boundaries and consequences ahead of time, in a positive and calm way.
Key components of respectful discipline include:
1) Setting expectations ahead of time. Discuss the consequences with your child before the events occur. The child should agree that the consequences are fair (the child can even contribute to deciding which consequences are appropriate). Parents should also keep consequences related to the offense (for example, a child can no longer use their bike for a day if they forget to put their helmet on).
2) Asking your child to describe the consequences back to you. This is a very simple and helpful technique to verify that the expectations have been clearly set and understood by your child. You might find that your child was not listening at all, or did not understand the expectations.
3) Enforcing in a calm manner. If the negative event occurs (for example, a child hits a sibling), parents should firmly, but calmly, implement the consequence, as soon as the situation has calmed down and tension is no longer running high.
4) Enforcing consistently. It is important to consistently enforce consequences when negative events take place.
Key take-aways to connecting before disciplining:
1) Anger and punishments rarely work as disciplining strategies.
2) Before implementing discipline, parents should first connect and use strategies from Magic Ways 1 to 5.
3) If all fails, parents should follow respectful discipline as a calm way to set firm boundaries, without building resentment. This includes setting expectations ahead of time, asking the child to describe the consequences and enforcing the consequences consistently and in a calm manner.