Article 3C: When Punishment and Corrective Consequences Don’t Work By Kerby T. Alvy Ph.D.
You may be thinking right now of how you have repeatedly punished or corrected your children for certain things that they do, but somehow they keep right on doing those things anyway. How can that happen? I really don’t know the details as to what forms of punishment and correction you use and what behaviors you choose to punish, but I can offer you a few educated guesses.
First of all, there may be a good chance that your child will simply not get caught misbehaving. Children are usually very aware of what behaviors are likely to bring punishment, but they are also very aware of how likely they are to get caught at them. Of course, if they don’t get caught, they don’t get punished. It’s as simple as that.
“O.K.,” you may be saying, “but what about those things he does right under my nose? He knows I’ll notice it and punish him for it, but that doesn’t seem to stop him. How do you explain that?” That brings me to my second educated guess.
Certain behaviors may have both positive and negative consequences. If younger brother has been teasing older brother unmercifully all day long, older brother might suddenly find it very positive to land a few punches on him. Even though older brother knows you will punish his fighting, the sheer delight of revenging himself on his younger tormenter, as well as the benefits to his peace of mind for having brought that teasing to a halt, may be well worth the cost of enduring any corrective consequences his parents hand out to him. In other words, if a behavior continues to occur, despite the fact it is often and perhaps severely corrected, there are probably some powerful rewards serving to maintain that behavior.
Let’s look at yet another example of how this works. Little Darlene feels that she hasn’t been getting enough parental attention these days. She has tried hard to please her parents, but it seems that they just never notice when she is behaving appropriately. It won’t take her long, however, to figure out that misbehavior will get her all the parental attention she can handle. Since negative attention is often better than no attention at all, it won’t be surprising if Darlene soon becomes a consistent behavior problem. All this because no one took the time to reward her good behavior with positive forms of attention.
You see, kids want their parents to notice them, and, in the long run, most of them would rather be corrected than ignored altogether. Clinic files are filled with cases of children who simply wanted parental attention and resorted to unacceptable means to get it. Many parents don’t realize that they have the power to improve relationships with their children simply by effectively giving them attention.
With information from this Series of Articles, the next step is to be sure that you are giving children as much attention as possible in loving and consistent ways.
All of the Parent Training Programs that CICC offers show you numerous ways of conveying positive and consistant attention, all of which will reduce the need to use corrective consequences. The Programs also provide many ways of using corrective consequences which do not involve the use of physical force, i.e., non-violent corrective consequences.
Click here to learn more about and how to obtain the Instructor Kit of each Program or just the Parent Handbook of each Program.