Many parents choose to take away their children’s privileges as a method of discipline. In theory this should teach children the consequences of their actions, but in reality it often turns into a form of punishment that doesn’t then instruct children in how to do better. In fact, this method is often misused and winds up backfiring on parents who take away too many privileges, take privileges away for too long and take privileges away too often.
Taking Away Privileges Appropriately
The best way to take away privileges as a form of discipline is to take away a privilege that is related to the “crime,” to take away the privilege immediately and to take away the privilege for only a short amount of time. For example, if a child throws a book, then taking away the book for the afternoon is the best. This is because it relates directly to the incident (the book in question), is short enough to remain relevant (the one afternoon) and occurred immediately (so that the child understands how the discipline is related to his/her behaviour). Instead of simply announcing that the book has been taken away, however, the parent should also explain to the child why it is being taken away, for example by saying “The book will be taken away for the afternoon so that you will remember to respect your possessions in the future.” Parents should endeavour to use vocabulary that will be easily understood by the child so that no further frustration or confusion results.
Taking Away Too Many Privileges
One of the least effective ways of taking away privileges is to take away too many privileges at once. Some parents get caught in this trap when their children are having particularly naughty days and seem to get into everything. Children will learn little from this situation though, since so many privileges taken away all at once will likely result in them forgetting what has been taken away and why. Parents should try to take away only one relevant privilege at a time so that children know exactly what is happening.
Taking Privileges Away for Too Long
Many parents, in the heat of the moment, will announce that a privilege is being taken away for a week or even a month. This should be avoided. Privileges should only be taken away for an amount of time that will remain relevant, and for school aged children a week is usually too long. Even if parents do stand strong on their decree, children usually find something else to occupy themselves in the meantime and thus are no longer being disciplined because they aren’t even missing the privilege. This will often result in parents then re-introducing the privilege and breaking their own word.
Taking Away Privileges Too Often
Even if a parent only takes away relevant privileges for short amounts of time, taking them too often will weaken this method of discipline as well. Taking privileges away frequently will only make children feel as though they have no control over their world – particularly if it feels like they get in trouble for everything including breathing! This in turn will lead to frustration that then spirals into temper tantrums and aggressive outbursts. A vicious circle can easily begin, so parents should limit taking away privileges to only those situations that truly require it.
Taking away privileges is an often misused method of discipline. Parents who take away privileges must remain vigilant that this method is relevant and teaches children something, otherwise it can easily and unnecessarily descend into punishment without a purpose.
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