Five Alternatives to Punishment for Children

Communicating with your child will help ensure they're friendly and fulfill their obligations. Before thinking about punishment, think of a way to discuss the problem with them and try to find a solution. Read the article and educate your child the right way.
Five Alternatives to Punishment for Children

Last update: 26 May, 2022

Did you know that punishment isn’t the only way to make your child learn a lesson? There are alternatives to punishment that foster better child development.

Various psychologists agree that yelling or spanking only work in the short term. Since these don’t change the child’s indecisive behavior, they also directly affect their emotional health. In this article, discover 5 alternatives to punishment that will help you educate your child better.

Do you remember how you felt every time you mom or dad yelled at you for not putting your toys away? Or the times you cried when you were physically punished? That’s exactly what your child feels when you punish them by using verbal or physical aggression.

Although your intention is to change your child’s behavior, this type of punishment only makes them feel humiliated. With that strategy, they won’t learn the good behavior you want to teach them. They’ll only do things to try to avoid scolding and they’ll see violence as a means to solve problems.

What are the best alternatives to punishment?

Conversation is one of the best alternatives to punishment to correct inappropriate behavior in children. However, sometimes it’s not enough. You should also take educational alternatives along with positive reinforcement into account so that the child is able to understand why their behavior is wrong so they can change it.

A child being punished. alternatives to punishment

Some people suggest other types of scolding, such as taking away their privileges. However, these punishments convey the same messages as physical reprimands.

Truly effective alternatives to punishment are those that allow the child to learn from their mistakes and grow in a healthy way.

Positive discipline is more beneficial for the parent-child relationship, as long as it’s based on love and mutual respect. It doesn’t mean that you should give in to your child’s whims, but it’s also about not being overly authoritarian.It’s about putting your foot down while considering the feelings and needs of your child, as well as yours as a parent.

1. Talk with your child and address the problem

Many parents have a hard time talking to their children without the conversation ending up in an argument. This usually happens when the child needs help but refuses to talk to their parents.

An alternative to punishment is to listen to your child and let them express themselves. Don’t get ahead of yourself by telling them you know how they feel. Many conversations end in a discussion because parents take the floor before they should, thus making the child feel that they haven’t made their point clear.

Even though you know what might be happening in your child’s mind, express curiosity about what they’re sharing with you. This way, they’ll feel confident and ready to talk to you about what’s happening. Once they open up with you, you both will be able to find a solution to the problem together.

2. Explain the consequences of their actions

Words make a difference. Telling your child things like, “If you do this, I’ll make you regret it” will only make them fear you, not respect you. Also, those things don’t teach them which behaviors they need to change.

Talk to your child. Make them understand that their actions have consequences. Make them understand that those consequences can affect the people around them.

Child ignoring her mother due to imposed punishment. alternatives to punishment

You must be firm and direct. However, you should also be gentle with your child. Don’t forget to congratulate your child when they behave properly, so they know what’s the right way to go. Reward them with family play time.

3. Make them do extra chores at home

One alternative to punishment is to, when your child misbehaves, make them do extra chores around the house. This is a way to discipline them without resorting to physical punishment or raising your voice.

4. Ask them to apologize

You’ve surely forced your child to say “I’m sorry” when they misbehave, but have you thought about the real power of these words? Immediate apologies sometimes aren’t the best way to act.

Your child needs to reflect on their behavior and the problem first. Give them time to think about their actions and how these might affect other people’s feelings. Once your child is calm, talk to them about what happened and ask them to think about other people who they may be hurting.

When your child reflects on the situation, you’ll see that they will apologize on their own. The best part of all is that it will be much more honest than an immediate apology.

5. Give them options and make them choose how to pay for their bad behavior

Choose several alternatives to punishment depending on what they’ve done. Let them reflect and decide what option they like the most. The options can range from limiting their access to electronic devices to doing more household chores.

A child playing with electronic devices. alternatives to punishment

When you impose a punishment onto your child, they’ll feel frustrated with you and possibly come to feel resentment and anger towards you. But if you explain the consequences of their actions, they’ll be able to understand what’s the best way to learn their lesson.

This article may interest you:

What to do When Your Child Misbehaves


Punishing has negative consequences that any parent should avoid. For example, punishments teach the child to use punishment against others.

Do you think that not letting them eat dessert at dinner or taking away their computer privileges will benefit them in any way?

Chances are they may lash out at others when they feel frustrated.

It also makes your child feel guilty. In this regard, some parents usually just lift punishments once the child starts crying. When that happens, they don’t allow the child to reflect on what they did wrong and instead just teach the child to fear punishment.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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  • Barcelata Eguiarte, B.E., and Alvarez Antillón, I. (2005). Patrones de interacción familiar de madres y padres generadores de violencia y maltrato infantil. Acta Colombiana de Psicología 35–45.
  • Martínez Sánchez, I. (2008). Repercusiones de la utilización del castigo físico sobre los hijos: influencia del contexto familiar. Psicología Educativa 14 (2), 91–102.
  • Kids Health. Disciplining Your Child. (2018). Recuperado el 9 de diciembre de 2020.
  • Healthy Children. What’s the Best Way to Discipline My Child? (2018). Recuperado el 9 de diciembre de 2020.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.