Twenty Alternatives to Punishment
by Aletha Solter, Ph.D.
Copyright © 1996 by Aletha Solter. Reprinted with permission from
The Aware Parenting Institute web site (www.awareparenting.com).
Aletha Solter, Ph.D. is an internationally known developmental
psychologist, consultant, director of the Aware Parenting Institute (www.awareparenting.com), and
the author of three books that have been translated into many
languages: "The Aware Baby," "Helping Young Children Flourish," and
"Tears and Tantrums."
- 1. LOOK FOR UNDERLYING NEEDS.
- example: Give your child something to
with while waiting in line.
2. GIVE INFORMATION AND REASONS.
- example: If your child colors on the
explain why we color on paper
3. LOOK FOR UNDERLYING FEELINGS.
- Acknowledge, accept & listen to
- example: If your child hits his baby
encourage him to express his anger and
jealousy in harmless ways. He may need to cry or rage.
4. CHANGE THE ENVIRONMENT.
- This is sometimes easier than trying to
change the child.
- example: If your child repeatedly takes
out of the kitchen cupboards, put a
childproof lock on them.
5. FIND ACCEPTABLE ALTERNATIVES.
- Redirect your child's behavior.
- example: If you do not want your child to
build a fort in the dining room, don't
just say no. Tell her where she can build one.
6. DEMONSTRATE HOW YOU WANT YOUR CHILD TO
- example: If your child pulls a cat's
her how to pet a cat. Do
not rely on words alone.
7. GIVE CHOICES RATHER THAN COMMANDS.
- Decision-making empowers children;
invite a power struggle.
- example: "Would you like to brush your
before or after putting your
8. MAKE SMALL CONCESSIONS.
- example: "I'll let you skip brushing your
teeth tonight because you are so
9. PROVIDE FOR A PERIOD OF PREPARATION.
- example: If you are counting on company
dinner, tell your child how you expect
him to behave. Be specific. Role-playing can help prepare children for
10. LET NATURAL CONSEQUENCES OCCUR (when
- Don't rescue too much.
- example: A child who does not hang up her
bathing suit and towel may find them still
wet the next day.
11. COMMUNICATE YOUR OWN FEELINGS.
- Let children know how their behavior
- example: "I get so tired of cleaning up
in the living
12. USE ACTIONS WHEN NECESSARY.
- example: If your child insists on running
across streets on your walks together, hold
his hand tightly (while explaining the dangers).
13. HOLD YOUR CHILD.
- Children who are acting aggressively or
obnoxiously can benefit from holding, in a loving
and supportive way, that allows them to channel their pent-up feelings
14. REMOVE YOUR CHILD FROM THE SITUATION, AND STAY
- Use the time for listening, sharing
holding, and conflict-resolution.
15. DO IT TOGETHER, BE PLAYFUL.
- Many conflict situations can be turned
- examples: "Let's pretend we're the seven
dwarfs while we clean
up," "Let's take turns brushing each other's teeth."
16. DEFUSE THE SITUATION WITH LAUGHTER.
- example: If your child is mad at you,
him to express his anger in a playful
fight with you. Play your part by surrendering dramatically. Laughter
helps resolve anger and
feelings of powerlessness.
17. MAKE A DEAL, NEGOTIATE.
- example: If you're ready to leave the
playground and your child is having fun,
reach an agreement on the number of times she may go down the slide
18. DO MUTUAL CONFLICT-RESOLUTION.
- Discuss ongoing conflicts with your
state your own needs, and ask for their help in
finding solutions. Determine rules together. Hold family meetings.
19. REVISE YOUR EXPECTATIONS.
- Young children have intense feelings and
needs, and are naturally loud, curious, messy,
willful, impatient, demanding, creative, forgetful, fearful,
self-centered, and full of energy. Try to accept them as they are.
20. TAKE A PARENTAL TIME-OUT.
- Leave the room, and do whatever is needed
regain your sense of composure and good
judgment (example: call a friend, cry, meditate, take a shower).