Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Intentional Parenting: Punishment & Reward

Happy Tuesday!  As I mentioned last week, I'm devoting Tuesdays to topics on parenting.  I'm fairly new to motherhood, with a toddler and an infant, so I'm certainly not a guru on the subject, but I enjoy reading up on it and love sharing my findings (and musings) on parenthood.  If you do, too, please join me on Tuesdays and share your thoughts on subjects I bring up!  And if parenthood is not your cup of tea, I will not be offended if I don't hear from you on Tuesdays.

Positive Guidance, Punishment, and Reward

A few weeks ago, my son's school hosted a seminar on intentional parenting.  Last week, I shared tidbits I learned about positive guidance: how to avoid using the word "no" and how to guide children in the right direction without so much negation.  Today I'm covering an extension of positive guidance: punishment & reward.

Some of this stuff is common sense, but I found it helpful to hear it again and there was good group discussion as well, which I will try to share with a few examples.

Punishment Should Make Sense

In strategizing how to avoid using the word "no" with our toddlers, we learned how to be creative: instead of saying don't grab toys from other kids, parents can show their kids other options: offering to trade toys, or asking if the other child might want to share.

While we hope that our children our listening to these words of instruction, there will be times when they will follow through and times when they won't.  And so we arrive upon the topic of punishment.  It's important to choose punishment that makes sense.

Example from our seminar: Jimmy puts toys away at school but refuses to do so at home.  Mom will threaten Jimmy: if you don't put your toys away, then you can't watch any television!  What does television have to do with toys?  Instead, a different kind of punishment was recommended: every time Jimmy doesn't put his toys away, those toys are "cleaned up" by mom/dad and put away in a closet that Jimmy can't access.  After repeated offenses of not putting away his toys after playing, Jimmy will have very few toys to play with.  Jimmy has learned a consequence: not putting away his toys after he plays results in not having any toys.

Reward Should be Used Carefully

The other interesting point I took away from the seminar was being cautious with rewarding children.  If done too often, this can rob them of self-motivation: the ability to do the "right" thing because they are driven internally to do so, not because they are driven externally.

Example from our seminar: Chrissy has never been a good eater, so her parents "bribe" her to eat her dinner by giving her a piece of chocolate after she finishes all her food.  While we didn't discuss what should be done in this situation (we only discussed that toddlers are quite good at moderating their hunger; they may eat more some days and less other days), encouraging Chrissy to eat her dinner by offering chocolate as a reward may not lead to a healthy relationship with food.

No Prescriptions Here

As you can see, I'm not necessarily providing a "how-to" but sharing some of what I observed in the seminar.  If you have any great tips to share or topics you'd like to see one of these Tuesdays, email them to me: supersmartmama@gmail.com

Parents with toddlers: how do you use punishment & reward?  Any good tips to share?  Any good stories?


  1. Good stuff! I agree punishments should make sense and be firm. The wish washyiness leads to trouble. I am not a fan of the clean your plate club! Life is hard enough without battles with food to overcome. Great post :)

    1. Karen, hi! Thanks for stopping by... always good to get a stamp of approval from a mom who's been there!


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