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Dr. Gerald Brown Nov 21, 2016

Alternatives to Physical Punishment

The 20th century seemed to automatically give fathers the go ahead to be the disciplinarians.  Many of us have heard the dreaded warning, “Wait until your father gets home!”  I hope that the 21st century attitudes towards child punishment continue to challenge traditional models of child punishment.  I admit to spanking my daughter on the bum out of pure frustration but I find that it is only a temporary fix and has no real purpose except to demonstrate my extreme disapproval through strength.  I also usually feel a bit guilty later in the day and remind myself to show her extra love and attention to let her know the importance of positive contact.  Today I want to highlight alternatives to physical punishment as suggested by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish in their best selling How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk:

  1. Express your feelings strongly without attacking or shaming your child’s character.  For example: I am furious that my laptop was taken from my office (without being asked), depleted of 100% battery, and not returned to my office.  This way you attack the issue and not the person.
  2. State your expectations.  This can be done verbally or written.  For example: I expect to be asked before my laptop is used, additionally I expect it to be returned to my office with the power cord plugged in to prevent complete battery drainage.  Hanging a sign above the laptop may be an effective way to ensure accountability.
  3. Teach your child how to make amends.  For example: Prior to the next time you would like to use my laptop I need for you to write a letter requesting use of my laptop explaining why you need it and your plan to return it and plug it in so the battery does not die.
  4. Offer a choice.  For example: You can borrow my laptop under these conditions or you give up the privilege of using it.  The choice is yoursThis is an assertive way to communicate your perspective on the issue and again avoids attacking the character of your child.
  5. Take action.  For example: my child comes to me and says why is the password not working on the laptop?  My reply: you tell me?
  6. Problem solve.  For example: What can we work out together to make sure you have access to my laptop when you need it and I can be sure it is in my office, charging, when I need it?

Some other strategies to punish may be to have your child write a specific amount of sentences describing what they will do differently (e.g. my daughter wrote:  I will listen to my papa and not interrupt 25 times this weekend because she was not doing a good job of listening).  Additionally, push ups, jumping jacks, sit ups, or unpleasant chores (cleaning toilets) may be alternatives to physical punishment that may be equally effective with your children. 

Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish’s book How to Talk so Kids will Listen & Listen so Kids will Talk and other parenting  books can be found at

If you would like to learn more about me or my practice Inner Compass Counseling, Coaching, and Consulting, PLLC and have questions feel free to visit my website

Dr. Gerald Brown (Doc Brown) is owner of Inner Compass Counseling, Coaching, and Consulting PLLC in Cornelius, NC and Harrisburg, NC.  He is passionate about fatherhood issues, immigrant concerns, and specializes in trauma work.  Doc Brown has presented at various conferences and has a multitude of experience training organizations and corporations in diversity and multicultural resilience.  He believes in helping individuals, couples, and families find meaning and integrate that meaning with various resiliencies in order to live purposefully and vibrantly.  He is married with two daughters ages 13 and 5. 



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