Although some experts believe that punishments are an ineffective parenting tool, many more believe that it is not punishment that is ineffective but the application of punishment that needs to be addressed. For your pre school child, punishments may be a form of reprimand when they do something wrong. At the same time, they need to also see positive parenting when you reinforce correct behavior. Our daycare children know that all actions, good or bad, lead to consequences.
When your child throws a toy around, most parents would take the toy away for a while. If a child fights with another child, the child is usually removed from the situation and put in a quiet corner for a while. Both these methods show the child that their actions lead to a consequence. A child can understand that. Don’t resort to punishments like spanking because it does not show any consequence to a child except that he or she will be hurt if they do something wrong. It is clearly a wrong message.
So what is the difference between reinforcement and punishment? While punishment is a way to ensure that certain behaviours stop happening, reinforcement increases the likelihood of some behaviours.
There are many great ways to reinforce good behavior. Pre school children do not have long memories but visual reminders of events help them remember better. Put up a behavior chart in your child’s room where he can be constantly reminded of his or her good behavior with a sticker. List all the behaviours you would like to see improvements in in this chart and every time your child does something well, let him or her put up a sticker next to it. When he or she collects enough stickers, you can buy them something they have been eyeing for some time.
Something as simple as an ice-cream cone works well too!
Remember that a big chunk of ensuring discipline is followed well depends on parents and not children. If you remind yourself to reinforce reinforce and reinforce, your child will be just fine!