10 Ways to Punish a Child without Spanking


Spanking is always a hot topic, and every now and again there is discussion of outlawing spanking completely. Some parents swear by it, others swear at those who do it, and most parents now live in fear of even admitting they’ve thought about it. Part of the problem is that spanking is a term applied to many things. A toddler might get a light (loud) pop on a diapered bottom while a preschooler might get a few licks with a flat palm on a bare bottom.

Without meaning to parents often discipline out of anger, and spanking is something that requires control and stable emotions. Others simply wonder how you can punish a child for hitting by hitting him? The debate is ongoing, but wherever you stand on the issue, there are still plenty of ways to punish your child without spanking.

1. Time Outs

The most common substitute to spanking is a time out. Time outs work for the vast majority of children because they remove the child from the action, offer a punishment that is easy for the child to understand and is a bit painful. It’s hard to sit on the bottom step while your brother gets to play with the best toys. Time outs are usually preceded by a warning and are ended with an apology. Time outs should be as long as your child is old, and usually don’t start before the age of two. Therefore that terrible two-year-old would earn two minutes in time out.

Time outs are a powerful weapon in the discipline arsenal, but sometimes parents forget that there are other weapons out there that can be used. Don’t pull out time out for every petty crime. Save it for the bigger jobs and use smaller tactics for smaller crimes when applicable.

2. Removing Items

If a fight ensues over a particular toy, the solution is simple –remove the toy. If your child starts whining about not getting his candy fast enough, put the candy back. Removing an item from your child’s sweaty little grasp makes a powerful statement about what you’ve said and how serious you are about it. You can do this in gradients as well. You can first remove the item in the store and put it in the cart to give back later. You then have one more options – putting items back.

3. Putting Things Away

When you take something away, it’s a temporary situation making a point about a small behavior. He whines incessantly, you take it away until you get home. But when he goes beyond whining to a full-blown tantrum, you simply put it back with him watching. This will actually make you sad in most cases because you must continue with what you begin. Once you threaten to put it back, you have to actually put it back if he continues.

At home, if a toy has been removed time and time again, you can put it away for weeks or months at a time. Put it away in a location where your children won’t find it as a long-term punishment for ongoing behavior related to the object. This is especially popular with older children abusing computers, phones, bikes and game systems. Warn, remove temporarily and then put it away. Some parents even go so far as to give items away, throw them away or sell them to others.

4. Standing in the Corner

A variation on time outs, having a child stand in the corner is a means of giving both you and he some distance and space to let emotions settle and to punish a child for misbehavior. Rather than a formal time-out in the normal spot, if your child says or does something that is over the top, you can send them to the corner. Have your child stand with her nose in the corner. This is an older punishment you might remember from your youth. Have her stand there long enough to think about the action – usually the number of minutes that correlate to a child’s age. Standing in the corner is a great discipline in that it travels.

If you’re traveling or even at a store, you can apply this rule. If your child is rude, quietly tell her that she must now stand in the corner of a dressing room after apologizing to the clerk or whoever was offended. Standing in the corner is also easier to apply to older children who are outgrowing the traditional time out.

5. A Discussion

There is much power to a discussion. The most memorable discussion you can have with your child is a quiet one that he must wait for and stew over. You might ask your child to have a seat at the kitchen table. Tell him you’re be there in a few minutes because you need to have a serious discussion about his behavior. Then let him sit and stew for a while. When you do have a talk with him about his behavior in the classroom or at a friend’s house, do so almost in a whisper.

Use intensity to relay the message and by lowering your voice you’ll be drawing him in and making him listen more carefully. The message, wait and discussion is concluded with the consequence either now or in the future. This is an excellent strategy to use with older children and even teens. The discussion will be memorable enough that you’ll both remember the consequence for a repeated behavior and will hopefully avoid the action in the future.

6. Make it Right

The old saying, the punishment must fit the crime is certainly still applicable today. If your child makes a mess deliberately after being told to clean up, the obvious solution is to clean up. But rather than giving him a spanking for the mess or even a time out, give him additional cleaning chores to help him understand how irritating it can be to clean up after others.

This can be done at any age and with greater intensity. Young children can help you clean. They can also practice being polite by visiting with residents of a nursing home or Mommy’s friends. Younger children might also make it a point to draw a picture or make a card for someone whose feelings they hurt. Older children can do even more – more along the lines of community service or finding ways to heal the damage left behind by the misbehavior.

7. Go to Your Room

Some families do a time out in the child’s room. However, if you don’t already use the child’s room for time outs, you can then use it for a bit of isolation. If your child is acting up during a fun family activity, simply send her to her room. Have her sit on the bed while the rest of you enjoy the activity and when the time is right, go up and visit with her. Another option is to send her to her room for the rest of the evening or until dinner time.

Isolation is a powerful statement you can make to a young child. Of course, you must give a young child a period of isolation in her room for a very short period of time. Older children can stay in the confines of their room for much longer. Be sure, however, that if you’re sending a child to her room for punishment that she’s not playing with her phone, computer or television while she’s there.

8. Removing Privileges

You don’t have to closely tie every crime and punishment together. Removing privileges is another way to punish a child, even if the privilege has nothing to do with the crime. Your preschooler refuses to get dressed or refuses to take a bath so you don’t read stories that night. Your teenager got a poor grade so you take away her cell phone or computer until the next marking period. It’s up to you how long you remove the privileges. Naturally, younger children will need a more immediate and shorter term than older children.

9. Cancel Events

If you’ve been planning a big family trip to the zoo or to the shore, you have the possibility of canceling it if your child does something truly shocking. Cancel a big event for a child such as a day trip or a full vacation. But then you can also cancel smaller events such as playdates, trips to the park or even a trip outside to the garden. When you threaten a child with canceling an event, you must then follow through with it rather stoically, so this is not a punishment to be considered lightly.

10. Silence

It’s a tricky game to play, but you can use silence to punish your child. With younger children, silence can be extremely powerful. With older children, the punishment isn’t quite as effective. To use silence as a punishment with small children, however, you have to tell them about the silence. This might also include talking to yourself or the pet. Don’t include other children in the punishment as this is seen as ganging up on a child.

If your child is saying ugly things or being whiny, start talking to yourself. Tell yourself that you can’t hear anything because of all the whining you’re hearing. Or “think” out loud, “It’s a shame I can’t talk to Junior right now, but he’s being so ugly I don’t want to talk to him.” And then don’t talk to him. Ignore him for a relatively short period of time until you know you’re point is made and then ask for an apology and praise your child for doing such a good job at not being rude and ugly.

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