Parents often overlook the simplest purpose of punishment is to discipline their child. And not to make them regret it. For a similar reason, it has become hard to find punishments that really serve the purpose.

Punishment for Kids – Making Punishments Smart and Effective

Parents often overlook the simplest purpose of punishment is to discipline their child. And not to make them regret it. For a similar reason, it has become hard to find punishments that really serve the purpose.


The effectiveness of punishment is actually a personal experience. Not every punishment would work for everyone. Therefore, it’s a trial-and-error scenario. Also, the kids have become smarter, they can literally find a million ways to punish their parents for punishing them!

Although, some parents believe that punishments are cruel and it spoils the child rather than discipline it. However, there are several pieces of research that confirm that the right forms of punishment can really help shape your child’s personality for the better.

Before we start discussing the punishments that really work. First, it’s important to know that for a punishment to be effective it should be:

  1. Given by an adult who is close to the child
  2. Consistent with the behavior that needs correction
  3. Perceived fair by the child
  4. Temperamentally and developmentally appropriate
  5. Leading to self-discipline

Punishments that don’t work!

So, you have tried punishing your child but they didn’t seem to care. You might call such a child a stubborn one. When parents notice their child shrugging the punishment off like it’s nothing, they are tempted to call their child stubborn, or a bad kid and retaliate with a severe punishment out of anger and frustration.

What most parents fail to understand here is that the child is actually a mismatch for the punishment they chose. When a child doesn’t care about the punishment, it means that the child is not being punished for the correct reason.

The first step towards effective punishment is to realize why their child behaved in the discipline-worthy and unwanted behavior. It also means to figure out under which circumstances the child seems to misbehave and avoid that behavior in the future.

To choose the right and positive punishment for your child, focus on the three Rs of positive parenting.

The Three “Rs” of Positive Parenting

An effective punishment is one that enforces positive discipline when it’s related, respectful, and reasonable.


The disciplinary action you chose should be a related consequence to your child’s action. Like if your child makes a mess, then the consequence should be to clean it up rather than taking away their screen-time or giving them a time-out.


Every human is entitled to respect even children. So, do not go for punishments that humiliated or shame the child. The chances are that child already feels bad about what they have done, by shaming them you will lessen their potential to learn from their mistake. Rather, your child will focus on blaming than correcting what they might have done wrong.


You can’t ask a two-year-old to wipe the floor after the spill-mess. What you can do is help them wipe it together, or show them gently how it’s done by putting your hand gently on top of their hand and do the motion with them. Reasonable is exactly that. It implies that an effective punishment is proportionate to the misbehavior and the one that your child can handle according to their know-how and age.

Making Punishment Effective and Smart

If your child is not responding well to the traditional ways, then it’s time to change the pattern.

  • There is no point in repeating the punishment that doesn’t work at discouraging the bad behavior. Try something different that might work
  • Lay concrete expectations. Tell your kids about what might the consequences be for certain misbehaviors. But be sure to explain in an age-appropriate way that your child can understand
  • Avoid giving into melt-downs and talk-back tantrums
  • Resist the urge to get angry and frustrated, rather stay calm and show that you have the power in your hands
  • Tell the consequence beforehand to avoid disciplinary action like pick up your toys or no more toys for you.
  • Listen to your children and give them proper attention. Remember, children are always seeking their parent’s attention
  • Engage them in different activities where they can be busy
  • Reward good behavior as well. Praising your child for behaving or doing something good will reinforce good behavior
  • Practice what you preach. Show your kids which behavior is acceptable and which is not
  • Redirect behavior by giving something that they might enjoy. Sometimes children misbehave because they are bored and have nothing to do.
  • As long as your child is safe and isn’t indulging in something dangerous then let them be. Know when not to respond. Sometimes, a child needs to learn through natural consequences that they are doing isn’t going to end in their favor automatically. Like the more food they throw away the lesser they will have n their plate to actually eat.
  • Prepare your children beforehand for upcoming activities. Children love to know what they are supposed to do next and they will likely behave
  • Learn about things that you might be doing wrong.

Punishments by age

Here are some examples of age-appropriate consequences:

1.      Infants

Although infants don’t need to be punished. But you might face a few behavioral issues that might need some extra attention. Like your infant continuously throws the spoon on the floor to make you pick it up again and again or snatches the toy from their elder sibling or tries to hit them – Here what you need to do:

  • Firstly, change the tone of your voice. Infants are very sensitive to tones. If you tell your infant “No” in a deeper voice, it will be more than enough to convey your disciplinary message to them
  • Secondly, redirect their behavior. This simply means that you put their attention to something else. Like if they are grabbing the toy, then you can simply give them something else to play with.

2.      Toddler

Toddlers are smart enough to understand what might be allowed and what might not be. But they love being experimental. So they might try a few things, again and again, to see how you react. For a toddler, your attention is everything therefore these techniques will come in handy:

  • Praise what you like
  • Ignore the behavior that you want to discourage
  • Continuously show what is acceptable and what is not
  • Bring in the time-outs. This means putting your child in a fixed, separate area of your home for a few minutes
  • Forced apology. Tell your child what they did and they should apologize for their mistake and promise to not repeat it

3.      Preschoolers

Preschoolers are still trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. But it is time when you can start telling them the consequences they will face for certain misbehavior.

To discipline preschoolers, you can use the same tactics for toddlers and make it just a bit more impactful. Like:

4.      School-age children

Now, your child is well aware of right and wrongs in the house. Therefore, you can talk about their choices and the consequences related to those choices. While you tell them about the consequences be sure to provide support as well.

Although, there will be days when your child would literally drive you crazy. Still, try not to punish your child, physically through hitting and mentally through verbal abuse. Instead, try:

  • Taking away more impactful privileges like play-dates and digital devices
  • Longer time-outs
  • Discuss why they misbehave and how can we prevent it next time
  • Enforce positive parenting by redirecting their behavior to other activities

Take Away

Punishments are a way to reinforce good behavior and differentiate between what’s acceptable and what’s not. Always remember, that punishment does not mean to degrade or humiliate your child just because they did something that you don’t like or approve of.

Like always, parenting isn’t easy and you might have to try different punishments each time to see what really works for your child. But never use punishments that might hurt your child in some way like taking away food or spanking.

Learn to stay calm when your child throws a tantrum. Your child is already hyperemotional, by yelling and showing extreme emotions you will most likely ruin the situation even more.

Work on your parenting style to improve your bond with your child and learn about their triggers. Talk to your child about the consequences their behavior will have and what you expect of them.

Importantly, never be ashamed for trying to discipline your child. There will be days when parent-guilt will kick in. Focus on the bigger picture and stay put on the rules that you have laid for your children to follow.

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