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5 Questions to Ask Before Punishing Your Child

Parents berating their son indoors

People get into heated debates about how to punish children. Should you spank or use Time Out? Should you take away privileges for a few days or should you should you ground them for weeks on end? How, or if, you punish your child is an extremely personal decision, but one that is necessary. No parent wants to be seen as the bad guy, but it is important to have a method to deal with your children’s behavior when they gets out of line.

When you get to the point that need to punish your child, you should ask these 5 questions to make sure that you address the situation lovingly.

Have I established fair and reasonable rules?

As a parent, you must establish boundaries and set expectations for behavior. Without clearly defined household rules, your child is prone to go his own way and it’s unfair to punish your child for doing something that he didn’t know was inappropriate. Your household rules need to be fair, reasonable, and reflective of your belief system. Once your rules are established, you must explain the consequences for breaking the rules. When kids understand the rules, expectations, and consequences they are more apt to adjust their behavior accordingly.

Does the behavior warrant punishment?

Children makes mistake. Sometimes they make a lot of mistakes. It is unwise to punish children every time they do something wrong. You must use your wisdom and discernment to determine which behaviors actually warrant punishment. If you punish your child for every discretion, the punishment will lose it’s desired effect. Kids need to understand that their actions have consequences, but they also need to know that their parents are willing to demonstrate forgiveness.

Is the punishment appropriate?

If you deem that punishment is the appropriate response for your child’s infraction, you have to determine which punishment will work best to curb the behavior in the future. It’s easy to overreact and dole out a punishment that is too harsh. On the flip side, you have to make sure that you aren’t being too lenient or else the punishment will be ineffective. You must also keep in mind that each child is different. What works for one child may not work for another child. Unreasonable punishments can lead to resentment.

Is my anger under control?

The worst thing a parent can do when punishing a child is to react out of anger. When you allow your anger to control your behavior, you may do things that you will regret – things that could scar your child physically and emotionally. If your child misbehaves in a way that deserves punishment, take some time to allow your anger to subside before reacting. Once your emotions are under control, then you can respond to the offense with clarity and compassion.

What can my child learn from this experience?

When children misbehave, parents have the opportunity to teach valuable life lessons about right and wrong, repentance, and forgiveness. Don’t get so caught up in the punishment that you fail to use the situation as a teachable moment.

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