Determining Appropriate Punishment for Children

Choosing appropriate punishment for children depends on the age and stage of development of the child. Even in the same family, what worked with one sibling may not work with the other.

Other parents and family members will be quick to give you parenting advice and question how you chose to punish your child, but don't let that deter you. Your goal is to discipline your child in a manner that is comfortable to you and in a method that works for your individual child.

Punishment for children works best when it is age-appropriate. An infant or very young child will not understand a long lecture about the consequences of their actions. What they will understand is a firm "No!" If the "no" doesn't work ,removing them from the situation will.  

Infants: Birth to One Year
Simply saying no should suffice. If it doesn't, the next step is to remove the child from the situation and redirect him to another activity. Don't expect a child this young to understand a long lecture, time out or harsh consequences. Don't physically restrain the child unless he is in immediate danger. Either remove the child from the room or remove the cause of the bad behavior from the room.  

Early Toddlers: One Year to Two Years
At this age children begin exerting their independence and testing the limits of the world around them. In most instances, a firm no still works, but other punishment may be necessary. Try time outs and consequences, such as being removed from the room or being placed in a crib or playpen.

Children at this age respond well to positive reinforcement of good behavior. They are able to understand longer explanations of why they cannot do something, but be sure to keep your language simple enough for them to comprehend it.

Late Toddlers: Two Years to Three Years
Children at this age are intent on expressing their independence, but they're very susceptible to frustration, which means tantrums are inevitable. Time-outs may work with tantrums, or you may simply have to remove the child from the area and put her in place that's calming.

By the age of three, most children understand cause-and-effect relationships. It is appropriate to withhold or withdraw privileges for misbehavior, as long as the child can make a direct connection between the bad behavior and the loss of privileges.  

Preschoolers and Kindergarten: Three Years to Five Years
Children at this age understand limits and rules. They are a little more self-reliant, but they do have trouble with impulse control. They respond to good behavior role modeling and love to receive positive reinforcement.  

At this stage of development, they can understand a lecture on the consequences of their actions. A time-out is also still effective. Withdrawal of privileges will work, as will sending the child to his room for a period of time. Don't make it too long; at this age, an hour alone in the room is more than enough.  

School Age: 6 Years to 12 Years
School-age children are much more independent. They are capable of following rules and should understand the consequences of disobeying. Positive reinforcement works very well with this age group.

Withdrawal of privileges is very effective at this age, and you can extend the length of the punishment as the child gets older. Taking away privileges for a day or two is effective with young school-age kids. By the age of 10, privileges can be suspended for up to a week.

Grounding is another effective punishment for older kids. If they receive an allowance, consider suspending it while still requiring them to do chores as part of their punishment.

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