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Teach or Punish?

Teach or Punish? Simple tips to reducing challenging behaviors

“If a child doesn’t know how to read, we teach.

If a child doesn’t know how to swim, we teach.

If a child doesn’t know how to multiply, we teach.

If a child doesn’t know how to drive, we teach.

If a child doesn’t know how to behave, we….. …….teach? ……punish?” (Herner, 1998)

Why can’t we finish the last sentence as automatically as we complete the others?

Teaching our children what our expectations are can be difficult. More often than not as a child we didn’t know there was a ‘rule’ until we broke it. Sitting down with your family and developing 3-5 simple house hold rules can go a long way in reducing challenging behavior. Some tips to developing house hold rules:

  • State the rules as ‘do’s’ rather than don’ts’. For example, ‘We keep our family safe’, instead of ‘Don’t hit’.
  • Pick 3-5 simple rules that can apply to many situations. For example, ‘Keep ourselves safe’ could be a rule for-‘Don’t, run in the house, don’t climb on the furniture, don’t jump off the top bunk, and brush your teeth.’ For example you may hear your self saying no stop and don’t to any of these example and now you can remind your child ‘we don’t run in the house because we keep ourselves safe.’
  • Once you and your family have developed 3-5 simple rules practice with your children, review the rules everyday, and praise your child for following the rules.

Review, practice, support, and celebrate success. Attention is very important to children so we need to give them more attention when they are not engaging in challenging behaviors.

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