Friday, July 13, 2012

HTTSKWL&LSKWT: Alternatives to Punishment:

As a follow up to yesterday's post on the differences between punishment consequences: my take on How to Talk's guidance on disciplining with consequences instead of punishment:

  • Point out a way to be helpful {I feel like this step is quasi-preventative; probably most appropriate when kids are on the cusp of crossing the line, like yelling or throwing things versus yelling mean things or throwing at someone. For the latter, you can pretty safely skip to number two.}
    • If your child is screaming inexplicably while you are trying to cook dinner, tell her that it would be helpful if she would set the table for dinner (or if you have a toddler, “mix” the salad. Hannah loves mixing things. Just be prepared for messes. Maybe let her mix her own salad so you don’t lose the whole bowl. Unless you are a French mom, then go ahead and let her make the whole salad herself. Because apparently French kids can do these things. I'm reading Bringing up Bebe now...)
    • If your kid is throwing toys, tell him that it’d be helpful if he would pick them up instead.
  •  Express strong disapproval (without attacking character) 
    • I don’t like hearing you scream like that; it makes it hard for me to help you.
    • I don’t like seeing toys thrown; they can hurt people and break things.
  • State your expectations.
    • I expect everyone to use indoor voices! (or just , “Indoor voices!”)
    • Toys go in your hands or on the floor, not in the air!
  • Show the child how to make amends.
    • If you talk to me in the same voice I’m using to talk to you, then I can understand you and help you.
    • The toys go back in the box now.
  • Offer a choice.
    • You can use your words to tell me what is wrong, or I can take you in your room until you are ready to use your words.
    • You can put the toys back in the box, or I can put the toys in my closet until I think you are ready to play with them safely.
  • Let them experience the consequences.
    • Take her to her room until she calms down.
    • Put the toys away until he shows you he won’t throw them.
Like learning anything new, this will probably take lots of hard work to get better. It will of course take lots of customizing for your particular situation or child. For example, you might need to do things a little differently for more serious offenses or for repeated offenses.
More complicated situations: This might include serious offenses, like hitting. Or on-going behavior issues. For these, you can skip step one (from above) and add a new step: problem-solving. The authors recommend sitting down together with your child and problem-solving, i.e.,coming up with strategies together to avoid the problem in the future/fix the situation/whatever. I haven’t gone through this whole process yet with Hannah, we've just had simple conversations about what we can do now or do differently next time. So I’m curious and nervous about how well this can work with a younger kiddo.

Scene: the girls are trying to share the iPad, it doesn’t go so well, and one of them hits the other 
  • Express your feelings strongly (without attacking character!):
    • “I’m really angry that you hit your sister!” 
  • State your expectations:
    • “It is OK to be frustrated, but I expect you to use your words” 
  • Show the child how to make amends:
    • “Your sister is upset and hurt now, what can we do to help her? You could give her a hug and let her play with the iPad for a while.” 
  • Offer a choice:
    • “You can play nicely with your sister, or you can go to your room (without the iPad) until you are ready to play nicely. You decide.” (not playing nicely or running off to her room, means she chose to experience the consequence. However, some consequences might be appropriate even if the child took the first choice. If this is an on-going thing, you could start limiting iPad-access for the child who hit until she can prove that she will share/not hit/whatever.)
  • Let them experience the consequences:
    • “I’m going to take you to your room until you are ready to play nicely.” (or, "the iPad is off limits until you can use your words instead of hitting when you are angry.")
  • New step: Problem-solve (this can happen later, when everyone is calm):
    • “Next time you get upset, what can you do instead of hitting your sister?”
    • Steps for Problem-Solving:
      • Talk about the child’s feelings and needs: “You were really upset because you both wanted to play with the iPad at once, weren't you?”
      • Talk about your feelings and needs: “But the problem is: it hurts Maggie when you hit. And it makes me really upset to see you guys hurt each other.”
      • Brainstorm together to find a mutually agreeable solution:
        • Maggie gives you the iPad and she plays with something else
        • You give Maggie the iPad and you play with something else
        • You play with the ipad together together
        • Nobody plays with the iPad
        • You take turns playing with the iPad
        • etc.
      • Write down all the ideas without evaluating:
      • Once the ideas are all on paper, decide which suggestions you like, which you don’t, and which you plan to follow through on (in other words, you can have more than one solution).
I'm not going to lie, I’m a little nervous about an almost-three-year old having the ability to follow these steps. I imagine it might start out with really good intentions and just dissolve into fits of tears. I do think it is worthwhile to try though. (especially since I'm reading about kids in France with all their magically polite behaviors.) It will just take a lot of practice and patience.
Read Part1 and Part 2 and Part 3


  1. I just finished reading this book. And li love your blog! I too am nervous my daughter just turned 3 and is very verbal and I want to use these principles but I'm nervous they might not be age appropriate. How did it go for you? Thank you!

    1. So I read in "If I Have to Tell You One More Time" (also a favorite book of mine) that at 2.5 most typically developing kids are cognitively ready for consequences and all that. But I still really differentiate it to my 2.5 year old. Like I use way shorter "lessons/discussions" with her and start way smaller with the consequences and work our way up. Some things are way easier for that age, like stating your expectations and point out ways to be helpful and those go over really well. It is really just the consequences that the younger kids aren't always emotionally/cognitively as well-equipped for. Sometimes, this sound dorky, but we play them out with her dolls. like playing school or playing with her doll house, like her toy get the consequences for doing stuff. that way she has the power and isn't experiencing it but understand it. that really helps. thanks for reading my blog :)