12 Alternatives to Punishment That May Actually Work


Today’s society is quick to tell parents that all their children need is more strict punishment. Generations before us used strong-hold forms of discipline such as spanking, isolation, and embarrassment. Even today you see images circulate on social media with parents shaming their children in public and online. It’s popular to be hard-core, and there seems to be no concern with finding alternatives to punishment.

But research has shown that disciplining your child in this manner can cause irreparable damage to their emotional development. Physical punishment such as spanking, withholding food and drink, or active punishment (i.e., running laps) can cause children to later use the same type of physical repercussions as they grow and attempt to resolve their own problems. Shaming and harsh punishment can cause mistrust, resentfulness, and a damaged emotional psyche that can continue to affect the child’s emotional state even years down the road.

Many parents recognize the importance of discipline but do not know how to approach it in a gentle way. We grew up in a generation where punishment was often used, and gentle, loving discipline was frowned upon. Without the skills taught to us on how to properly discipline our children, we find ourselves grasping for a more gentle approach to punishment.

12 Alternatives To Punishments That Are Gentle Forms Of Discipline

Have you read about the benefits of skipping time-out in favor of other ways to guide children, but are not sure where to start? Here are 12 alternatives to punishment that give parents and children a chance to address choices and situations with the intention of maintaining a positive, respectful and peaceful connection.

These alternatives are mostly geared towards children aged 1 to 6 years but also work well beyond that, too.

1. Take a break together

The key is to do this together and before things get out of hand. So if your child is having a difficult time or making unsafe choices like hitting a playmate, find a quiet space to take a break together. Just five minutes of connection, listening to what your child is feeling and talking about more appropriate choices really helps. This is similar to a time-in.

2. Second chances

Ever made a mistake and felt so relieved to have a chance at a do-over? Often letting children try again lets them address the problem or change their behavior. “I can’t let you put glue all over the table. Do you want to try this again on paper?”

3. Problem solve together

If there is a problem and your child is acting out of frustration, giving him a chance to talk about the problem and listening to a solution he has can turn things around for the better.

4. Ask questions

Sometimes children do things but we don’t quite get it.  We might assume incorrectly they are doing something “bad” or “naughty” when, in fact, they are trying to understand how something works. Ask what they are up to with the intent to listen and understand first, then correct them by providing the appropriate outlet or information that is missing. So try, “What are you trying to do?” instead of, “Why in the world…ugh!!! Time out!”

5. Read a story

Another great way to help children understand how to make better choices is by reading stories with characters that are making mistakes, having big feelings or needing help to make better choices. Also, reading together can be a really positive way to reconnect and direct our attention to our child.

6. Puppets & play

Young children love to see puppets or dolls come to life to teach positive lessons. “I’m Honey Bear, and oh, it looks like you scribbled crayons on the ground. I’m flying to the kitchen to get a sponge for us to clean it up together. Come along!” After cleaning up together, “Oh, now let’s fetch some paper, and will you color me a picnic on the paper? Paper is for coloring with crayons!”

7. Give two choices

Let’s say your child is doing something completely unacceptable. Provide her with two alternatives that are safe, respectful and acceptable, and let her choose what she will do from there. By receiving two choices, the child can keep some control over her decisions while still learning about boundaries.

8. Listen to a song

Sometimes taking a fun break to release some tension and connect is all that children need to return to making better choices and all that parents need to loosen up a bit and let go of some stress. Listen to a song or take a dance break!

9. Go outside

Changing locations often gives us parents a chance to redirect behavior to something more appropriate. “I cannot let you scale the bookshelf. You CAN climb on the monkey bars. Let’s go outside and practice that instead!” Or, “Cutting the carpet with the scissors is not acceptable. Let’s go outside and cut some grass.”

10. Breathe

A big, deep breath for both parents and children can really help us calm down and look at what is going on with a new perspective. Take a big “lion” breath to get out frustrations or short and quick “bunny” breaths to feel calm and re-energized.

11. Draw a picture

A wonderful way for children to talk about mistakes is to make a picture of what they did or could have done differently. It’s a low-key way to open a window for talking to each other about making better choices.

12. Chill-out space

For a time-out to work, it needs to be something that helps everyone calm down, not something that makes children frightened or scared. A chill-out space is an area where children can go sit and think, tinker with some quiet toys, and have some space alone until they feel ready to talk or return to being with others. Using the chill-out space should be offered as a choice and not a command.

Every child and every situation is unique, so these tools are not one-size-fits-all but rather a list of ideas to lean on to expand your parenting toolbox. I find that striving to use proactive tools like these to respond to and to guide children towards better choices works far more positively than having to react when things have gotten out of hand

What You Should Do After Discipline is Done

It is important that after your child has had a chance to calm down by either coloring a picture, taking deep breaths, or taking some time to themselves, to talk about the incident at hand. Here are 6 steps you can take to help you and your child work through the discussion and the incident:

  1. Talk to your child about the situation and what precipitated their actions.
  2. Remind them of the expectations and the rules that you have for them.
  3. Explain to them why you asked them to spend some time alone or to calm down.
  4. Tell them that everyone makes mistakes and that it is important to reflect on their actions so they can make better choices next time.
  5. Discuss how the situation and how they could have handled it differently.
  6. Tell them you love them, you respect them, and that you are there to help them make the best choices possible.

A Time-Out for Parents

Sometimes parents need to take a time-out, too. Our children may do something or say something that makes us increasingly angry. Those are often the times that we resort to strong-arm forms of punishment like physical punishment or isolation. Here are 5 ways that parents can take a time-out so they can more appropriately enact more gentle forms of discipline like the ones listed above:

  1. Leave the room- If you are feeling angry, make sure your child is safe and then step away for a little bit until you can calm yourself down.
  2. Take deep breaths- Five long and deep breaths can help you to slow your adrenaline
  3. Give them a hug- It might be the last thing you want to do, but giving your child a hug when you are feeling angry can help you calm yourself down, too.
  4. Exercise- Sometimes even walking out of the room or working out a solution with your child still leaves you feeling frustrated. Go for a run, do some yoga, or simply do a quick HIIT workout. The endorphins will leave you feeling significantly better.
  5. Gratitude journal- A gratitude journal is a great way to give yourself a daily reminder about the positive things you experienced with your child that day. Simply writing 3 to 5 good memories down at the end of the day every day will allow you to maintain a positive attitude and give you something to look back upon as a reminder when you are having a hard day.


With thanks for alternative punishments provided by Ariadne Brill. 

Image: Donnie Ray Jones

76 thoughts on “12 Alternatives to Punishment That May Actually Work”

  1. Some of these look like a good idea, however some of them just seems like they are rewards for bad behavior to me. Take a breather, fine, I get the concept. But these all seem to just be for if the kid is freaking out, not if they are truly misbehaving.

    1. I think you are overlooking the point a little in that even when a child is “truly misbehaving” there is usually an underlying cause that using these approaches is more likely to solve. IT takes work to shift one’s mindset from the idea that “punishment” is needed if a child misbehaves, however research pretty well establishes that punishment, while effective in the moment (sometimes) is very rarely effective in creating the lasting changes we want to see. Using the types of approaches outlined in the article is mush more likely to yield the type of results we want to see by the time our children are teenagers.

      1. Not punishment…consequences. as a high school teacher I see far too many teens who fail due to lack of effort and they want a” do over” . Sometimes in life there are no do overs.

        1. This is for young children…teaching them coping. Self management skills. The reason the high schoolers are asking for a do over is because they are still young children in their decision making skills because this was never practiced and perfected to grow into funtioning adults who are mindful of consequences. Thank you for making it more evident why changing our mindset it so important to change the way we are raising the children of the world.

          1. I find it interesting when someone in the comment section expresses disagreement with the above article, the sanctimommy crew comes out in force. Must be nice to know you’re a perfect parent and thus able to judge others’ parental skills as inferior.

      2. well this certainly wont make a child behave better!! This is temper tantrums waiting to happen in public places…Setting them up for how the real world will reject their behaviour of expecting something in return for their bad behaviour…I have 4 children, all of whom misbehave from time to time. But I have NEVER had to deal with a temper tantrum in a public place, they follow our rules, they are happy, lots of friends and do very well in school….without this ridiculous list! I do, however, take the time to “parent” my kids. i’m not their friends, Im more than that, i’m their mom!

        1. Roxanne, honestly-I feel sad at your comments toward this poster. I hear martyrdom, judgment, and rigidity in your comment. Those can be breeding grounds for good manipulators in your own household. Also, based on your use of capital letters and exclamation points-I have doubt in the control you believe exists-else you would maintain a calm demeanor. Children like boundaries, not dictators. I encourage you to change your emotion to investigative-in all areas of your life.
          If this upset you-then take note-as your children’s defenses go up every time in equal measure every time this approach is used. And I didn’t even use capital letters or exclamation points.

        2. I am my son’s mom and not friend, too. I only have one kid, not four, so I am not as experienced as you.
          Anyway, it is hard for me to understand how your kids do not have tantrums. In public.
          A tantrum is an expression of a blockage in solving a situation. It is normal for children not to know how to resolve some frustrating issues. I do not understand how you do not see that they have issues and in public, the same issues, just as frustrating as at home.
          If they try to control what they are not ready to control yet, the frustration deepens, accumulates. Or they finally adapt to becoming control freaks. I was one, still am sometimes, it’s not ok.
          My kid had some tantrums in public places, this is ok, I took him in my arms, talked, cried, we were together. Everytime.
          It is important for them to know that you are there for their needs in privat and in public, you’re their rock, their mountain, no matter what. They cannot rely on you more in privat that in public, they have to rely on you always.
          This looks like conditionally love… for me. It looks like you can count more on your children to accept your needs than they can rely on you to accept them unconditionally.
          Hopefully I am mistaking, I do not know much, that is how it looks.

      1. Agreed. Our children get our affection and attention because we love them, and because they’re inherently worthy of it… not because they have “earned” it by complying with our expectations and/or demands.

        That we will continue to love our children even when they make mistakes or even “intentionally misbehave” must underlie the techniques listed here in order for them to be successful. These replace punishments and rewards, not augment them.

  2. My daughter is 18 months old, so we’re pretty much still at the distraction strategy stage.

    But I would like to talk about my second graders. My classroom management system is pretty simple: I teach the kids what behaviors are unacceptable, I have a hierarchy of consequences, a broken rule gets a consequence. I vowed to the class to not yell or lecture, but assume the kids know what they did was wrong and that they are responsible enough to accept the consequence.

    Yet, one day, I used a couple of these!

    It was a bad morning. I don’t know what was wrong and still don’t. Just… bad energy in the room. By first recess, half the class was on the second worst consequence. That’s not normal. So, while the kids were at recess, I returned everyone’s name to our starting point on the behavior management chart. I printed out some nice mandala coloring pages. When the kids returned from recess, we pretended like the day was starting again. We spent the rest of the morning coloring and reading books. The rest of the day was much better.

    I do believe discipline is necessary for the growth of the child, especially when they know they misbehaved. I believe discipline should be consistent. But, very often, you do need to consider the needs of the child.

    1. By second grade they should be emotionally intelligent to handle this form of structure! Great way to continue to grow your students in such a positive way. We teach life skills.

    2. Great choice!
      We have done this at home too. We were having a horrible day and I decided we needed to begin again so I sent the kids back to bed. Get under the covers, I want to hear snoring, of course this alone started the magic. We’re going to “wake up” and start over.
      Was just what we needed. Thanks for reminding me, I think we need to do this more often. Reset.

  3. Seriously?? I’m sorry but this is a joke. almost all of these just make bad behaviour acceptable, hence the confused generation being raised today that have to face rues and regulations of the real world. It’s not punishing our kids thats the problem, its lack of punishment…yes lets go to the park after you try and climb the book shelves???? Come on!!

    1. Actually, if my kids were trying to climb the book shelves I would definitely take them to the park where they could climb the play equipment without having an accident. 🙂 I don’t think they’d need ‘punishment’ for something that is simply childish behaviour. It’s funny because on one hand I let my children listen to ‘fun’ songs like ‘5 little monkeys jumping on the bed’ and they love it. But then when they go to jump on the lounges or the beds (and sing that song) I say ‘no, no, no…’ and don’t let them do it because they might hurt themselves, or damage the furniture. The answer is of course to send them out to jump on the trampoline, but my point is: children behave childishly, some of the time we are calling it misbehaving when its just childish and not grown up, like we think we are. 🙂

    2. I have seen these methods used effectively, and have used some myself. They are effective in teaching children about expected behaviors. No one is saying children should not have rules or boundaries. When implemented with young children, these methods can teach self regulation (appropriate methods for the child to handle his own energy and emotions).

    3. Roxanne, for the most part I do agree with you. As for the choices part my children do well with that it’s either you get one or the other or nothing at all. They might sulk but they are happy to at least get one thing. Never set your children up for failure. If they are tired and u can clearly see this take it into consideration when planning an outing or activity. Also I have 1-2-3 magic in my house. You get three chances to improve your behaviour and if you get to three child gets 2 min time out. No matter what the age. My children know that if they don’t calm down or thro a tantrum an additional min could be added. The highest we have gotten is 4 mins and then we go back to task at hand. Hands on behaviour is automatic 3 straight to two min time out. As a single mother this helps control the craziness of my days.

    4. I know right. I’m not about to condone the scissors to go outside to cut grass with either. I’m thinking this is geared towards an age of child that really shouldnt have unsupervised scissors to begin with.

  4. Actually, I think these are all great techniques. Granted my D is still small but eschewing punishment has worked for us so far.

    I would really like a list of simple books that feature mistakes being made and learning from them though — because I think that would work quite well for my little one.

    The truth is that in the real world there is very little direct punishment for behavior so I’m not certain how punishing children for theirs prepares them. There are consequences and I believe in them, but real consequences not punishments disguised as punishments.

    If you pick your nose I don’t want to hold your hand until you wash it.

    If you hit your friend she may not want to play with you in the future.

    What happens if you scream in the store? Well, you are making people feel uncomfortable. We don’t have time to buy the cheese you want because we need to leave quickly so people aren’t bothered.. We will try to get it another day.

    All of those are real consequences imposed by the world at large. Admittedly there are times that the only consequences that exist are for the parent or at lease tim not creative enough to figure out what it could be (i then i try to use empathy and try to get her to want to cooperate. If she can’t then she can’t.)

  5. Sheesh, I’m glad most of y’all don’t parent me. Granted, there is a difference between what a three year old and sixteen year old know what is acceptable. Sure, there is a huge disparity between “misbehaving” and throwing a tantrum. But regardless of age, we all want to feel safe, loved, and able to rebound from mistakes. I think this is a nice list to start from when the message you wany to express is that a mistake was made, let’s move on.

  6. Children need to understand that the real world will not be so easy. If you break rule, laws, etc…you get in trouble, go to jail, etc. If children are allowed shortcuts around the bad things they do, then as they grow, they believe it’s okay to take shortcuts in other things. Punishment is necessary to implement good behavior. One thing I will say should go on this list is the parents should do what they tell their kids to do. So many kids are being shown the wrong acts of “do as I say, not as I do.” This is wrong. 🙁 the poor babies are confused. So good people who are examples to their children and utilize punishment where it is due…you can expect well behaved kids in the long run. Everybody else, change the way you act, and show your kids what to do.

    1. This article is hardly talking about shoplifting and other law breaking offenses. Wouldn’t it be better to help children understand WHY it’s best to make good choices and to raise them to be kinder, gentler adults rather than have them operate their entire lives out of fear of punishment. I want my kids to not break rules because they realize it’s not the right thing to do, not bc they’re afraid they’ll get in trouble.

      Natural consequences are wonderful, but for young children, a measure of grace and mercy is necessary.

      1. Soooo, I should say a prayer every evening just in case somebody is out there to punish me in afterlife? Or if I do believe, I should pray because of that?

    2. The single most important thing we can do as parents is model the behaviour. If the parents model the behaviour the kids will follow what they obseve.

    3. That’s ridiculous. Punishment teaches nothing and often escalates issues because it causes a power struggle.

      I am not sure which real world you come from, it sounds like a violent one not one I wouldwwant to prepare any child for. Where I am from communication, negotiation, and self control are the skills people need to succeed. These techniques build a sense of community, teach children about different expectations in different settings in a way that engages their cooperation, help children feel strongly about the importance of following rules, and prepare children for the real world. I use them as a mother and a teacher.

      Some do take common sense though because they are meant to prevent future problems not meant to do right after naughty behavior. Most problems can be prevented by making sure kids are fed, get plenty of sleep, and have lots of exercise. Almost anything else can be solved with redirection at young ages and discussion for older children. Punishment is rarely necessary.

  7. What if the same mistake is done over and over again? How do you say “Hey, same mistake, we’ll move on… some other day. Here’s a treat for trying”?

    What if your toddler does something really off like peeing on the carpet and laughs when it’s done, even when he or she is already potty trained? How would you deal with something like that under the proposed rules?

    1. I’d let the kid clean up the mess himself. He’ll see that this is a lot of work for him, it stinks and keeps him from doing funnier things like playing with his toys. Has worked for both of my children so far. Plus – I’d tell him why he should not do it (stinks, if everyone else coming by does it how would the flat look like, how would it feel to live in a dirty stinking flat) and what he should do instead (go to the loo/pottie, pee in there, flush it down, turn around do something that he might enjoy much more than cleaning up a mess)

      1. Sounds so easy peasy. Now let’s get back to reality… You ask your child to clean up the pee, and they scream no, and then stalk away, then what, it’s just battle of wills and possibly a tantrum. A small child is not able to understand the long term consequences. They need to understand what is good behavior and what is bad behavior. It’s called parenting and guiding. I think giving toddlers over complicated talks as to how they should change their behavior just confuses them more and makes things worse.

      2. I’m just going to come right out and say it: You’re brain-dead. You are a blithering idiot, and I pity any child raised by such an obviously incompetent person.

      3. If your potty-trained child feels the need to pee on the carpet, then it’s one of two things: 1. He finds it funny, things it’s a game, which it is. You calmly explain why it isn’t and clean up the mess together. 2. There’s something else bothering him and acts out in that way, trying to get your attention. If you punish him for peeing on the carpet, he learns that he’s not allowed to do that. But what do you learn? Did you take the time to listen to him? To ask what’s really wrong that made him act this way? The answer might surprise you.

  8. This is about shaping behavior. If practiced consistently, I have seen it improve behavior of many ODD children by re-shaping their behavior. Takes time and commitment.

  9. For all the people here who are dumbfounded by this list and see it only in the most simplistic of terms of rewarding bad behavior — please educate yourselves and move beyond thinking of children only in terms of how well they “behave” and in terms of reward and punishment. Would your approach to parenting work if some authority treated you the same way when you when you know you *shouldn’t* eat something unhealthy, *shouldn’t* spend so much time online, *should* write that thank you note, etc? And you presumably are a fully developed adult, so imagine if you’re a child with a still-developing brain and emotional system. Read Susan Stiffelman, Laura Markham, Shefali Tsabary, Lori Petro, Alfie Kohn and Hand in Hand Parenting. You will feel better about yourself and your kids will be better equipped for life. However, I understand the resistance to the ideas that this list sets forth… it does imply that we need to focus on regulating ourselves and being kind to ourselves first, and it is a totally counterintuitive way of approaching things with the conditioning most of us have had.

    1. I love your comments. It’s very in line with Love and Logic as well Loving Your Kids on Purpose. The idea is to develop a character that can self manage in the long run rather than spend a life not doing something due to fear of consequences.

    2. A book that should be on that list is parent effectiveness training by dr. thomas gordon. you can have well-behaved children who respect you and not use punishment to get them like that.

    3. It’s just too extreme. Parents are either in the extreme of basically letting your kid do whatever they want without consequence living the easy life, which is what this is. Or in the extreme of very direct no negotiation punishment without much talking or understanding. I have seen teenagers who were raised in basically the way outlined in this article and wow, there is no respect for other people, and a very grandiose sense of entitlement. They think, if I do something bad, mommy will just do something nice with me. That causes children to seek attention through bad behavior and have no fear of consequence. While no child should live with the anxiety of always feeling like they might do something wrong, there definitely needs to be a balance. It does not help the child at all if they grow up and mess up in life and expect nothing bad to happen because they had such an easy upbringing with no real discipline whatsoever.

      1. Joy, well said. Vivian, you’re missing the point completely. No one said not to care about your child, or let them do whatever they want without consequences. Of course there are consequences – logical ones, natural ones, i.e. if you play with water and make a mess in the living room 1. you get sick 2. you slip on the paddle and hurt yourself. There you go, consequences learned. Just an example of course. No one said to leave children alone and not give a damn, on the contrary, this article actually points out ways where you can actually listen to your children and put yourself in their shoes, really understand why they’re doing things and find real and logical ways of solving problems instead of taking the easy route of punishment and time out.

      2. How is there no consequence? What if in stead of making the kid wipe out the mess you tell him the consequence? There is no punishment, but he feels there is consequence. That you cannot make diner and he and the father should do that, because you are wiping out his mess? Or he can stay to clean, so you can make dinner. Or maybe there is no time left after cleaning for going out. Or maybe a carpet got ruined and you go together to buy another, no playing at the paid playground because the carpet was not in the budget…
        He feels that his mistake has unpleasant consequence and learns, without punishment.

  10. I’M SORRY BUT… i am the PARENT, NOT the friend!!

    Some of these are like rewarding behavior that is unacceptable… no I’m not going to dance around with you… no we are not going 5 have a marching parade. .. they need to know the behavior is unacceptable. I want my daughter to be well behaved and mannerable, I don’t want her to think she can do something that is unacceptable and turn around and have a do over… or that when I tell her to go to bed she can feel she pulls weight on what’s to be done…

    I dunno just how I feel… I’ll always be there and we will have lots of fun but when your acting in an unacceptable manner I’m sorry you don’t need to go unnoticed… it needs to be addeessed!!

    1. WEll, the dancing around is not the end – it is suppose to let off steam, make the child feel connected to you again – and THEN you can talk. Your child is not a dog that needs immediate consequences, but is suppose to grow into a responsible adult at some point. Children want to be parented, not trained!

  11. Love these ideas! I’ve seen a wonderful difference in my children as I changed from a “punishing” parent to a more kind parent. I’m really trying to work with my kids to teach them life skills, and although there are certainly consequences later in life, they don’t usually involve yelling, hitting, or time outs. And yes, as adults, we get LOTS of do-overs (thank goodness!) I’m finding that the more mindful I am of them, their emotions, and their learning, the more progress we’re making.

  12. These are great alternatives. There absolutely is a time and a place for punishment, but as parents it is our role to help our kids learn to self-regulate, not wait for the hammer to fall. To those who see this as rewarding bad behavior, this was my experience recently… I’d suggest you take a step back and re-evaluate why you’re so defensive about a list of possible “other” responses that no one is saying you have to use.

    I got a chance to see into the anger and fears of a 4-year old last night. It’s heartbreaking & heart – softening to see what happens inside and a huge job to help him to see how to process those things in a healthy way.
    I asked Caleb to let Mina outside before dinner last night. He said, “No Mama I won’t do it!”
    So I pulled a love-and-logic and asked him if he wants our family to be one that helps or one that doesn’t help each other.
    Caleb: “We are NOT a family that helps!”
    Me: “Ok, buddy, that’s fine… but that means you’ll have to get your own dinner ready tonight.”
    Caleb: [stomping across the kitchen at me] “MAMA I’m going to PUNCH YOU IN THE FACE!”
    whew. deep breath. Instead of reacting to his anger (“No child of mine will ever talk to me like that!! went through my head at least 4 times), I said nothing, walked over, took his hand, and walked him to the couch. By the time we sat down he was crying uncontrollably. He sat on my lap and sobbed for a solid minute before I finally said, “Did you really want to punch me in the face?”
    He responded, “No…” and burst into tears again.
    We sat together on the couch for about 10 minutes while he cried, finally telling me that he got angry because he was scared.
    “I thought you were going to cook dinner for you and Abby and I would have to cook dinner by myself and I would get burned on the stove and I’m too little to do that! I’ll get hurt!!”
    “I thought you and Abby were going to do something together and I would have to play by myself and I would be so lonely!”
    We were able to work through those fears, then he worked on getting his leftovers out of the fridge for dinner (ham, apples, cooked carrots, peanut butter, soymilk), with lots of tears, finally coming to the conclusion:
    “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do! Getting dinner is so hard!!”
    Right before bed, Caleb asked about heaven. He burst into tears again seemingly out of nowhere – turns out he really misses Great-Grandpa Neil and Papa’s Uncle Tom (who he didn’t know), who both passed away this winter.
    I’m so glad I didn’t react the way I wanted to. What an honor to see into the fears and tenderness at this age when he is still transparent with what is happening inside.

    1. Thank you for sharing this story! I am a mother of two boys and we daily deal with outbursts like this from my 6yo. He has Aspergers and ADHD and is a very intelligent, deep feeler so I have many opportunities to grow in my parenting skills instead of reacting in selfisness. God bless you as you parent your little gifts!

    2. Sorry, but the fact that it even occurred to your child to threaten you tells me that you’re doing an absolutely appalling job of teaching him the fundamentals of acceptable behavior.

      When your kid gets to school and has to face other children who don’t subscribe to your “let’s bubble wrap the world” philosophy, he will be at a loss to understand why the other kids can’t stand him.

      1. By the time her kid gets to school he will be a strong, emotionally healthy child with a great connection to him mom, with confidence and respect for his parents (instead of fear) and he will do great. Thanks for sharing, Mom of 2, and good job!

  13. I am a teacher and these are approaches that are great in the classroom. I also think of them as “preventables”…as in, if you try to redirect, ask a child to try again, teach the correct way, offer to give a break or ask what the child is trying to do and offer to try to help him think of alternatives and actually listen…you can sometimes prevent an actual meltdown or obvious infraction. However, children need consistency and clear expectations, and consequences if after you have done all you can to prevent, redirect, or distract and the child continues to follow through with an unacceptable behavior. Hitting another child is an example of something that requires a consequence. Yes, it is good to find out if your child is acting out of an unmet need…and try to teach the correct way to act the next time…but a short time-out is still appropriate.

  14. These are all fantastic techniques for your first response! People who are commenting that this “rewards” bad behavior must be thinking about repeated offenses. If your child climbs a bookshelf because they want to climb, then offering the park is a great alternative. If your child climbs a bookshelf to get a rise out of you or because they are using it as a tool to get to the park, then it is a problem and discipline is appropriate. This article is trying to provide helpful alternative responses and prevent knee-jerk punishments for innocent-though-inappropriate behavior.

  15. Parenting requires a whole tool kit of options for fun, learning, and discipline. I think this list provides some excellent new tools we can use but that doesn’t mean we have to throw out our existing tools (example: time out). There is no one tool that will work on every child in every situation. I think this list did a nice job providing options but a bad job setting up the list – as if punishment were a bad thing. Punishment is still a tool parents need to have available in their tool box, but maybe they can avoid using it as often by using a different tool first.

  16. I think these are great ideas. I work in a preschool classroom and we regularly use these ideas for managing our kiddos. Most kids respond to tenderness and kindness and the ones who continue to act out usually don’t have much positive affirmation at home. Natural consequences are appropriate, but we never exclude kids from the group activity going on. The consequence of waiting your turn for the play-doh is that you get to play with play-doh! The consequence of throwing your play-doh at your friend is that your friend may choose to go play with something else. Focus on the positives. We try to re-work our responses for kids so we are affirming and offering positive social-emotional growth. Instead of saying, “You can’t climb the bookshelf,” try this: “Bookshelves are for holding books, but when we go outside at recess you can climb the play structure.” Instead of “no running in class!” try “we use our walking feet in class, friends!” Stuff like that.

  17. All these can help, but you need to be careful about the timing of some of these. Giving a kid lots of attention as a immediate reaction to unwanted behavior can reinforce the behavior so that you get more of it.

  18. As a parent of a 5 year old boy who is all elbows and energy, I can say that some of these have really worked well for us. I’ve used giving choices, taking a break, listening and asking questions, going outside and breathing, and providing a safe chill-out space, all to good effect. I have also used short (1-3 minute) time outs, short (10-15 minute) loss of privileges, and other things that might be considered punishments. And almost always, I’ve use natural consequences when appropriate. Together, these have helped my son become a resilient, strongly self-monitoring kid who is usually a joy to be around. As a teacher of 14- and 15-year-olds, I hope for students that they have experiences like this leading up to their adolescent years. It makes that ownership for their own behavior so much more attainable.

  19. I think these are pretty good suggestions, but you have to keep some things in mind for them to work. The most important one being that each child is unique as to what will work, and what he/she needs. For instance, my oldest (the “guinea pig” poor kid) was put in time-out a few times with NO positive effect, so we switched to “Time-In” once I learned about it. That worked much better for him. My youngest, however, will put himself in “time-out” in his room, when he needs a break from people so he can calm himself down. I believe this is mostly an introver/extrovert thing. He’ll even say “I don’t want anyone to talk to me or touch me.”

    Another thing that should be kept in mind is that children WANT to behave. They want to please Mom/Dad from the beginning, but I see a lot of people teaching children that they are EXPECTED to misbehave. When I see my child heading towards what looks like doing something he shouldn’t, I let him do it (if it’s safe), or I will ask if he means to do whatever a plausible alternative might be, clearly showing him that my expectation is that he is trying to behave. For instance, if my son throws a piece of trash on the ground, I would first wait to see if he picks it up, and if he doesn’t, I might say something like, “Did you mean to throw that on the ground? Do you remember where the trash can is?” And when he picks the trash up, say something like, “thank you for correcting your mistake.” I find that kids tend to follow expectations, and if they’re given the benefit of the doubt, the’ll do a lot better. This has been true for both of my (very different) children.

  20. If you are interested in pursuing this model of non violent communication with your kids, I recommend Marshall Rosenberg’s CDs, Speaking Peace.

  21. These ideas go along with a book I am reading: Unconditional parenting, Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason by Alfie Kohn. He really goes into detail to explain conditional parenting (giving and withdrawing love) and unconditional parenting. I hope you all get a chance to read it!

  22. what a great perspective! some really great tools here. i cant wait to try them out. we all parent in different ways, and different aproaches work better for different children. empowering them, and teaching them to make their own good choices is quite a task for any parent. thank you for shairing.

  23. the *first* most important thing is to model good behavior. the second is to own up to mistakes. don’t be so proud that you can’t apologize to your kid when you have done something wrong, either when they’ve simply seen a wrong action or worse if that action is directed toward them, but neither one of those situations can be ignored. for example, i got overly upset the other day (should have given myself a time-out) and reduced myself to name-calling. i apologized to the child i directed the names at, but failed to include my other daughter in the apology. it was the other daughter who the next day was calling her sister the same name because “mom said it first.” no one is going to be perfect all the time. translation: no parent can be a perfect model for behavior all the time. showing kids a model of apology and humility to admit we were wrong is also very important when we do fail because it will happen.

  24. How refreshing this article was and why time out doesn’t work. I have children 3 of whom are grown up adults and a 4 yr old. I was a young mum at 17 and an older mum at 44 when little one was born. I have seen so many changes in the way parents are expected to raise their child. With my older ones it was a tap on the hand but one of them didn’t respond to this so I had to sit it out with him when his tantrums flared up. I never used or even heard of time out when they were younger. My oldest being 30 now. With my little one who is 4 I had been advised to do time out with her but it never worked no matter how many times she was sent to the stair over the years. I went back to my old parenting skills which was mainly thinking ahead to possible senario and if she does something wrong to talk to her to find out. I normally find her actions are not of being horrible and nauty but actually her not being able to deal with the situation. Not having the skills as we so expect little ones to have. A recent event was at someone’s house. Apparently she just stood there and had a wee knowingly. Now this cause havoc with the older child and I was expected to tell her off. When I sat down and asked her but obviously saying it was wrong. It turned out she said she couldn’t wee on the toilet as the pan was full of poo and dirty from another child in the house! I explained what to do in that situation again, tell an adult etc. Another time was when she pushed another child. It was wrong but finding out why gave me the chance to explain what should have been done. All I’m saying in a long winded way is for me it works to find out why and how they feel at time of event. Give them skills to apologise and rectify the situations rather than isolate them. To me isolating a child rarely works it just means they learn to hide behaviour better when there is good oportunity to give the skills to to let them know how they have made the other child feel and how to deal with it next time. Parents should trust their instincts when raising kids as each one is totally different and needs different responses. Only the parent or guardian knows the child enough to instill what is appropriate for that child, age and situation.

  25. I am a mom of a 2 yr old boy. This article seems well thought out and I do agree with some points. However I also see some of the negative comments about it and understand where those are coming from. Providing an alternative to undesirable behavior can also teach a child “hey, if I do this I can get coloring books or a trip to the park” etc etc. Is any kind of behavior of a child good or bad always psychological? And what about when parents are tired or having a hard day, or just sleep deprived quite regularly? Also what about parents who have to work? I must say that everything I have read about parenting so far always talks like parents don’t need to work or cook or clean eyc etc. Not condoning punishment here but just get very confused as to what to do sometimes because I am tired and see a positive action not yield the desirable result.

  26. I definitely believe in talking to your children and explaining why a certain behavior is wrong. With my four children, we give them a few chances to correct their bad behavior, whatever it may be, but after so many chances if bad behavior continues, depending on their age, they get punished. Their punishment, as I said depends on age so it may be taking away something like video game or phone privileges or it may be time spent in their room with no games or TV, sometimes, rarely, they do get spanked…not beaten, there is a difference. We rarely resort to spanking, however it has been effective at times. I think whatever method we use, it is important to talk to them, and explain why they are receiving a punishment and that they are loved no matter what they do, but that bad behavior is unacceptable and their are consequences for our actions. It is also important to point out that we as parents are not perfect, we do make mistakes, but hopefully we try to do what is best for our children.

    1. I think you have the best reply so far. Redirecting behavior in toddlers works well most of the time. But it is also at this age that one should be learning that a parent means what he/she says with or without rewards or options. Running in a parking lot is NOT allowed….there may not be a second chance. A 3 or 4 year old needs to know that when mom says stay be me, do not run she means it. A trust is built on knowing that what a parent says she means, and she has your best interest in saying it. This trust will develop on into the preteen and teen years. If you wait until then ….you will get resentful and disrespectful behavior. They will always expect 2nd and 3rd chances. While a parent may give it to them, a teacher, another adult or police officer may not. Sometimes the answer is just NO—here is my good reason why it is NO—and I expect you NOT to do it. When these NO answers happen, the child should know that you have his best intentions and safety at heart. I never said NO without sharing my reason for that decision. proud mother of 4 great, respectuful, well adjusted adults.

  27. Really, you take what helps and leave the rest behind. There’s never going to be a blanket list of 12 ways to parent and those are the *correct* and *only right way to do so.* Every child is different, every situation, every parent. If one of these help, even one time… Cool. I mean, you pick your battles. But if its not your style? Disregard and move on. Anyone who’s THAT annoyed by this… Go take your scissors and cut grass instead. Who cares.

  28. I’m a nanny to a 2 y/o and a godparent to a 7 y/o, and I’ve used every single one of these techniques at one time or another (some I use more than others). They are effective in some situations. However, I also use time-out’s in certain situations, and I don’t believe time-out’s (when used appropriately) are harmful or negative. If my charge physically hurts another (hits, bites, pushes, kicks, scratches, pinches), he goes in time out for 2 minutes. He also goes in time out if he’s disobeyed me after I’ve gently corrected him. Last week, for instance, he chose to throw sand in the sandbox, which nearly got into several other babies’ eyes. First time he did it, I gently said to him, “Darling, you must not throw sand because it can hurt the other babies.” Then, I showed him how to nicely dump the sand. Second time he did it, I, most sternly, warned him not to do it, and told him he’d be in time out if he repeated the behaviour. Seconds later, he did it again. He went in time out. Then, we tried again in the sandbox – no more flying sand.

    I’ve found this to be the most effective discipline for that specific type of behaviour, because it’s immediate. I find that, with babies, sometimes they can talk and reason things out, but most of the time, reason isn’t an effective immediate discipline. I prefer to teach reason throughout the day, as an ongoing conversation when Baby is in a receptive state and hasn’t been naughty. I’ve also babysat toddlers who were rewarded so often for reasoning well (“If I can come up with a good enough argument, I can get what I want.”) that they had no sense of authority, and immediately burst into uncontrollable tears the second they felt they might not get their way – before I even had a chance to explain the situation to them.

    I really like the choices concept. That is one of the most helpful things when working with toddlers, and whenever I have the opportunity to offer a choice (always between 2-3 things) I do. I also like to be at the point with a child that I can say yes often. They have to ask me, but I like to be able to say yes whenever possible. That way, they know when I’m saying, “No”, it’s important, and my answer is unwavering.

    My one issue with this article is the use of the word ‘punishment’. Punishment, to me, conjures the idea of something bad, unfavourable, and uncomfortable. I really don’t like this word. I prefer the word discipline, which has a much different meaning. Discipline means ‘to teach’. I teach my children every moment I’m with them, whether consciously or unconsciously. When I’m disciplining them (and I have a lot of disciplinary tools in my toolbox) I always do so for their benefit. I always ask myself, “Am I doing this for them, or for me? Will they thank me when they’re 21 for this, or will they resent me down the road for doing this? Am I respecting this child as I discipline him, bearing in mind his unique needs and stage in life? Am I being authoritative or authoritarian?” The answers to those questions usually inform me as to whether I’m doing the right thing, or not.

    1. Also, I forgot to add that after a time-out I ALWAYS talk to my charge about why he was in time out. I go to him with the truth in love, and ask him why he thinks he was in time-out, then we walk through the behaviour and what to do in future situations. I have him apologise to whomever he offended, and then we hug and kiss and move on. I’ve done this since he was 1, before he was talking. I’m not sure if he understood what I was saying, but I said it anyway.

  29. Hahaha….my child is being a monster and climbing shelves while acting completely inappropriate and wild. Therefore, I’m going to reward her/him for these actions and take them to the park! So next time we are in the store, the child will know it is completely ok to climb the shelves and not listen as it will earn them a playground trip. Great advice!

  30. I do admire this article, really I do and I agree with your methods but perhaps I could shed some insite for both sides of this comment section regarding this article.

    Punishment(pain indusive methods to teach them they will be hurt for bad choices) is, rather we like to hear it or not, actually abusive and ineffective behaviour as a parenting method.. Although this article is slight missing a few things as well.

    The issue to life and this method of teaching will make that child grow up believing things are as they should be in the world.. That it’s an understanding place for second chances and compassionate responses..

    Thats why I believe in (dont shy away until fully read please) disipline. Children should ALWAYS be told why their favorite toy was taken away for a day, they need to understand there are CONSEQUENCES to their choices. Not because you want them to suffer or pay for your inconvenience, but because they will have to be adaptable from a young age and pepaired for the harsh world we live in today.

    And after taking their toy away or making them sit in time out for cutting the carpet, THEN take them outside to show them a better alternative and show them what is acceptable.

    Or do what i said backwards (take them outside, show alternatives like cutting grass then make them sit in time out and think about it and tell you what they learned when coming out) This way they can cope better, understand consequences, communicate and see their wrongs and why it was wrong. Thats my input, hopefully meeting in the middle makes good sense.

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