What Age Should Punishment Start? by Michelle LaRowe


Many parents often wonder at what age they should begin to punish their child. 

The truth is, never. You see, discipline is far more effective than punishment.  Discipline flows out of love, punishment flows out of anger.  If you view discipline in the correct light, as a teaching tool with the goal of training a child to meet moral or behavioral improvements, this truly begins shortly after birth. 

When a child reaches about two years of age, he begins to understand directives and can reflect back and recall prior instructions. That’s why most moms of 18 month olds sound like a broken record – no throwing food, no throwing food, no hitting, no yelling. Their children can’t yet understand and remember consistently.

By age three, most children can understand directions and follow through. At this age, children are also becoming familiar with house rules and accepted standards of behavior.

When disciplining your child keep the following tips in mind:

_Always address the behavior not the child.  Children are never good or bad, it’s their behavior that sometimes stinks.

_ Validate feelings. Validate your child’s feelings without validating his behavior. “I know you are angry. When we are angry we say ‘I’m angry.’ We don’t bite.”

_ Be consistent – It takes repetition for a rule or expectation to be engrained in a young child. If you forget to mention a rule and a child gets away with breaking it, it’s like that rule never existed. 

_Take the emotion out of discipline. When disciplining your child keep cool and use a firm but calm voice.  Don’t try to rationalize with your child. He won’t understand the philosophy behind why we don’t use inappropriate language. He will however, understand that we don’t speak unkind words.

_ Keep it simple. Keep the rules and directives you give your child clear and easy to understand. Say things simply (no hitting, no biting, no back talk, and no throwing food) and avoid long lectures.  

_ Make sure your verbal and nonverbal cues line up.  When telling your child not to bite, don’t rock him in your arms and use a high pitched “cutesy” voice to tell him.  Instead, look him square in the eyes and say no biting. 

Keep these tips in mind when disciplining your child and you’ll find that the time and energy you’ve invested will pay off.



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