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The difference between consequences and punishments

The terms consequence and punishment are often used interchangeably when talking about discipline. There is a difference between consequences and punishments. Punishment is a behavior that inflicts emotional or physical pain on a child. It is used as a means to get your child to behave well or to do what you want.

Consequences and punishments

On the other hand, consequences are a result of a specific behavior. Allowing natural consequences to occur is best, if possible, so children learn the cause and effect relationship of their behavior and consequences. Parents will occasionally need to use consequences for bad behavior. Consequences should focus on teaching a child, not coercing a child.

So then what is punishment exactly? Punishment is behaviors such as yelling, name-calling, hitting or kicking, sarcasm, and ignoring or isolation for long periods of time (giving the “silent treatment”). Each of these behaviors focuses on causing physical or emotional suffering, such as guilt or embarrassment. Consequences are specific, consistent, interactive, informative, and positive.

For consequences to be most effective, parents should focus more on describing and rewarding what their children are doing well. When negative consequences are given continue to remain positive and understanding while Role-playing the correct behavior.

Why punishment doesn’t work

When teaching the concept of replacing punishing behaviors with consequences many parents say, “Well spanking works.” Or fill in the blank with any other punishment work. Punishment does often work short-term, but it will not give the result you want long-term. There are several reasons why:

  • Since the parent’s behavior is the punishment, children may seek revenge or retaliation against the parent.
  • Punishment hurts the parent/child relationship.
  • Punishment may stop the behavior because the child is fearful of doing it again, but not because they intrinsically want to do better.
  • It does not teach the child what to do instead.
  • Children become “immune” to punishment or it stops working when they are no longer afraid of the parent. Then the parent has to increase the punishment for it to work.
  • Children learn to punish others.

Teaching children consequences

When used correctly, consequences specifically describe to a child what they are doing that is wrong and then teach them how to behave positively instead. Three Smarter Parenting skills are used during and after negative behaviors to help a child correct their negative behavior.

Observe and Describe

Observe and Describe used in the moment that your child is misbehaving. When you observe a negative behavior, you specifically and unemotionally explain what your child is doing. Then explain what they should do instead.

For example, your child is whining about not being able to have ice cream. yYou would say, “Right now you are talking in a whiny voice and asking me repeatedly for ice cream. I need you to say “Okay” calmly and not ask me again for ice cream.”

Correcting Behaviors

Correcting Behaviors is used If your child’s negative behavior continues to escalate and you need to give a consequence. It includes the steps of Observe and Describe and then adds an appropriate Effective Negative Consequence. It also involves Role-playing with your child the correct way to behave.

For example, you have Observed and Described to your child about whining and asking repeatedly for ice cream. They then throw a cup against the wall. Because they’ve escalated, you’ve moved into Correcting Behaviors once they are calm.

You would say, “I understand you were upset I said “No,” but it is not okay to throw a cup against the wall. Since you threw the cup against the wall you will not be able to have ice cream for the rest of the day. If you can Role-play calming down the correct way with me, then you can earn a different treat for later in the day.”

Effective Negative Consequences

Effective Negative Consequences helps you know how to give consequences that will encourage your child to reduce their negative behavior.

For example, a loss of a treat may be more meaningful to one child, while another may respond better to a reduction in game or play time. Effective Negative Consequences helps you figure out what will motivate your child the most to reduce negative behavior.

Benefits of consequences

Using these three behavior skills has some real benefits. Punishing your child leads to resentment. Consequences for bad behavior lead to relationship building. Reduction in consequences over time. Teaching children consequences shows cause and effect for kids so they learn to have control over their behaviors and understand accountability.

Punishment is always used for negative behaviors, but consequences are not. Although they are often referred to this way, a consequence can be positive. Remember to give positive rewards or consequences too. Give positive consequences more frequently than you give negative consequences. Teaching through the appropriate use of positive rewards and negative consequences will heal the strains in your relationship with your child. It will elevate your family to a happier, healthier state.

Skills such as Observe and Describe, Correcting Behaviors, and Effective Negative Consequences are proven techniques that provide direction and solutions to problems at home. Skills such as these will move from using punishments with your children to guiding through consequences.

Teaching children consequences is one of the best things you will do as a parent.