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Alternatives To Punishment

I often hear parents say "I don’t want to do what my parents did, I don’t want to inflict physical and emotional harm on my kids, but I want them to understand right and wrong with a different process". What can I do instead of punishment that results in positive outcomes for both parent and child?

Kids start to resent parental authority, become depressed and unhappy and eventually break the bonds with their parents when punishment is damaging and harsh. It breaks down a loving relationship and then parents wonder why their child hardly talks to them. Name calling can cause emotional damage which you cannot see through a bruise – I call these tattoos on the soul and could be even worse than the smack.

Aletha Solter shows us about twenty alternatives to punishment, so will share a few with you to get you started!

Look at the needs of the kid

When you are taking kid out for an appointment, take some toys/book with you, especially when you have to wait in queues in Singapore, how boring for the child!  If you are going to be out past meal times, take a snack or sandwich, drinks and fruit. A small cushion so they can fall asleep on the bus/taxi/mrt.

Give Reasons/find alternatives

If the child plays with toys in the middle of the kitchen whilst you are cooking, explain to the child why you need her/him to move into the lounge room or to another place. You are on the phone and your kid is yelling, pause and say "Mummy is on the phone, I need you to stop yelling please, do you understand?" Do this without raising your voice or you will be modeling what you just told her not to do! Better still, before you make a call, ensure your kid has something interesting to focus on. If your child is colouring all over the walls, explain why we use paper and direct child to where you want the activity done.

Environment changes

Your kid messes up the arrangement on the lounge table e.g. flowers – just remove it to a higher place. Continues to blow a whistle whilst you are talking to a guest, observe the toys you put out for her/him to play with when socialising has to take place. Your teens like to put their feet up on the table, get an ottoman instead.


If your child:
– pulls the dog’s tail, show her/him how to pat/stroke her pet instead
– pokes the new baby’s eyes, show your child how to stroke the baby’s arms and kiss baby’s fingers instead.

Provide choices that are not confusing

When you give a kid 8 choices for breakfast, she/her are likely to get confused and say ‘don’t want that’

Instead, ask:
– "Do you want eggs or muffins for breakfast?"
– "Would you like to shower first or brush teeth?"
– "I have toast or cereal, which one do you want?"
or offer your child 2 choices you know she/he loves.


Before you have a dinner party or guests, seat your child down and chat about the behaviour you would like them to display. Be specific:
– "When Aunty Fay and Uncle Tim come over, I don’t want you running around yelling and screaming."
– "If you need something, come and ask me. Do you understand Jessica?".
Again, tone is important without threats. If your child is upset, take 5 minutes and sit down and work it out together. Listen to your child’s reasons before you pounce yours onto the child. If the child has done something wrong, explain why it is wrong and what behaviour you expect:
– "I didn’t like it when you yelled at me in the bank, I don’t yell at you so I really would like you not to do this again. I prefer that you talk to me."
– "I get annoyed when you leave your towel on the bathroom floor after your shower, I want you to please put it on the towel rack after you finish."

Using ‘I’ messages does not blame the child like ‘you always leave your towel on the floor, I just hate it’ – see the difference?  It’s more respectful and more productive to voice what behaviour you do want !


Remove kid from the situation and stay with the child, holding the child lovingly until it dies down, or if he/she hits out, stay close so they don’t injure themselves e.g. child is on the floor of the supermarket crying/yelling, stay close to child without chatting until she has stopped. Then pick up child in a close hug. Use the time to listen, share feelings quietly after the yelling has stopped. The whole market does not need to hear you chat with her.

One of my own here: An anger pillow. If the child needs to express anger, I had a bright yellow cover on this pillow on a bean bag and they could go to their room and give the pillow a good punch until they felt better ! This worked well with my sons who could gage their anger rising and they would rush to their rooms, punch the big pillow, come back and say "I’m read to talk about it now".

Review your high expectations

Wanting kids to sit quietly for too long is a good example of high expectation (I still can’t do it! LOL), waiting in a que for 20 min is too long if they have nothing to do, wanting their rooms to always be perfect, wanting them to get high grades in school ALL THE TIME, seeking perfection when we know it does not exist, yet expecting it from our kids. Accept and love your kid/s for who they are and don’t keep waiting for them to become something that even you find hard to become!

Time out

No! Not for the kid – for you!!

Remove yourself from the situation, call a friend, take a bath, ask dad to take over for 20 minutes, deal with it later, child care for half a day so you can rest if your sleep deprived or ask a friend relative to babysit. Delay a chat with your teen if you are too angry, it will come out all wrong!


Consequences… Stop nagging!

Kid forgets his umbrella, comes home wet. Kid has learned something from the experience, next day your kid is more likely to say "I better take my umbrella to school today". If your kid doesn’t, guess what? He’s going to get wet again!

When we use too much of control we don’t allow them to make their own mistakes and learn from them, the way we do. Forgot your homework? Teacher will provide consequences!

You have provided a gentle reminder, a clean space for working, a reminder board etc so you’ve set your child up to succeed. If unsure about nagging? Just think, if I don’t nag her about (whatever) what will she/he learn from this?

I hope you enjoy these tips and let me know if any of you found it useful or would like to add some alternatives!

Skippy who dislikes bruises on the outside and the inside!! Yeah to alternatives, roll them out !!

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 I Think in the context nowadays, we seldom use the term “punishment” anymore. It is a negative word which may affect relationships. I would prefer the term “consequences”. Although the meanings of these two words doesn’t make much difference, the word “consequences” has an element of responsibility in it. 


Carry out the consequences such that a child must know what he has done wrongly, why such a consequence must be carried out and make him understand it is his irresponsibility that has caused the consequence to happen. A child will be more willing to accept a consequence than a punishment. 


Chances of committing the same mistake again will be lowered. 

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Meaningful sorry !

Thanks smum

I was watching a parenting programme (I watch all of them on cable and some of them send me into shock waves of OHMYG! no! or yes that could work…) Anyway, here on one show which I will leave unnamed got the child to say “I’m sorry” after a huge temper tantrum. The child had gone into a tantrum for a good 6 minutes or more yelling, thrashing against the wall, pulling the mother’s hair, kicking, sweating, and screaming…at the end of this, and he mum demanded an apology – “Say sorry she said, say sorry” – under this pressure the kid hangs his head and says his sorry…again he has no idea what he is saying sorry to as he just follows these demands.

You are right, parents have to call for an additional supply of patience each and every day but it got me thinking how demanding a sorry can be fruitless if the child has no idea what they are sorry for… if the child is old enough I encourage parents to talk about what happened so it becomes a memorable and learning experience rather than parroting I AM SORRY – so that they can be in the good books with their parents once more.

Here’s another slant on this scenario that may help you. If there is a tantrum, let it die down, offer the child a drink, let peace and calmness arrive before you request anything or teach anything. Let’s take this created example to make this point. Once your there say to the child “Can we talk about what just happened when you got upset and pulled your sister’s hair”? If child resists he or she may go into the silence (low level resistance) or the child may say “No”, don’t want to.

In which case you can say something like “I know you don’t want to talk about it, but I cannot have you hurt your sister when you are upset”. “When you are upset with her or want something you need to ask or come to me for help. To get what we want we cannot hurt another and as you did, I need you to say sorry to your sister before we can move on”. Child may still resist by blaming (quite common) …”oh but it was her fault she did not give me back my book when I asked her to”. You listen to this and say ” so because your sister did not listen to your request you feel you needed to hurt her….”
YES! says the child…

Mum: “Well it’s still not right to hit her when she did not respond…it still does not make it right as we don’t hit when others do not listen to us. What would happen if I hit you each time you did not listen to mummy, would you like this?”. (Mother reinforces the boundaries of non violence in the home)

Child: “No I would not like that”

Mum: “Okay so can you can see how you cannot do this either… Now are you ready to say sorry to your sister for hitting her as you have really upset and made her sad…”

Child: Yes, okay.

This simple act of really LISTENING to your child and their reasons (Child’s solution to get what they want is to hit) and you have given other ways to get what he wants. You have also reinforced how you as a parent cannot use force to get what you want and the same applies to the children. You are also building trust with your child by taking the time to listen to his point of view i.e. his needs. When you listen to a child’s needs they are more likely to listen to yours when the time comes.

Sorry now becomes more meangingfull. As you pointed out children can forget so yes, we have to reinforce this each time it happens and it will happen less and less when this process of listening is done. It may sound like a lot of time, actually, it does not take much time and for the outcomes, a good 10 minute talk is priceless!


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My kids love to said

My kids love to said "Sorry. I will not do it again". But I think kids are so forget as it will happen again a few days later. I think parents really need to have lots of patient. 

Thank you

I m very thankful that you are a member of this forum, thru your generous sharing of tips and experiences I gain much confidence as a parent simply becos I share similar  style in parenting and you hv confirm my ways with my son is a proven method.  Recently while out with my sister, DS misbehaved and I had to give him my stern voice talk.  He stops his rowdy behaviour and said:  "Sorry mommy, I will be good".  That shocked my sister into asking if I was going to beat him when I reached home.  She thought that I beat DS into submission and by merely using my stern voice, DS would just switched into submission mode.  In his 30 over months of life, I had only really spanked him 3 times on his bum-bum and it was becos his acts were dangerous and I had to punished him.   Now that my boy is turning three, its getting more challenging on a weekly incline in parenting. 

Thanks Jona

Good to read your feedback –

Hey they say “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” ! LOL Sorry that was the first thing that came to mind as I read the good intention bit. My dry sense of humour lah.
There was once a very wise man that said “if they knew better they would have done better” Goldsmith, J. Your right it depends on their level of education, socio-economic backgrounds and so many other variables.

I guess in 2009 we are attempting to learn from generations past. You just have to google the number of kids that have died in 2009 from parents who did not mean to kill their child.

Thrilled to read how you wrote that if we put ourselves in their shoes we would see things very differently. Like the doctor who became a patient and then realised how awful the medical staff treated him !! He then set out to become a better doctor 🙂


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Alternatives to punishment

hougang mum
Sitting in the corner blindfolded is a form of punishment, cutting of the sense of sight is physical punishment as well, even though you are not beating the child. Your intention is to quiet your child, calm her down and you are assuming that whilst she sits there in the darkness she will realize her mistake, but she could be sitting there getting more and more angry with you. Chances are she will repeat her inappropriate behaviour.

Why not try talking to her instead when she does something wrong? If she has gone into hyper activity, invest in a mini trampoline and allow her jump on it, burn some energy off, or a bouncy ball that she can sit on and bounce up and down. After 10-15 minutes of this, get her down from it and say “now we need to talk” – By this time she will be more prepared to sit for a short period of time to talk to you. Also by this time both of you are calmer.

All the very best! Skippy

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Talking about violence



Not sure to accept what you have said about violence inflicted to children.

No parent wants to intentionally inflict violence to their kids. They do certain things unknowingly that it is violence. At the end of the day every parent wants the best from their kids. And their level of maturity and thinking is such that they are not able to distinguish between duty and bringing up a happy kid. Kids think “what did my mum or dad do to make me happy” rather than thinking that their parents are disciplining them for their good.

But at this age, kids are not able to differentiate between dutiful parents and parents who do even small things to make kids happy, and at the end extract what they want in a positive way without punishment from their kids. Ultimately, the question is “are the kids happy” “is the parent happy, and achieved what they dreamt of their child”.

So this topic is a must, and kids have to be seen from their shoes rather than parents seeing kids from their point of view.

Perhaps if v parents put ourselves in their kids position of that age we could do a better justice in bringing up kids without violence and punishment, and with positive confrontation and reinforcement. Afterall who is there for kids. They have only parents to show their + or -. And it is for parents to be role models in shaping them up. Rather than inflicting violence and increasing our BloodPressure and spoiling our health and kids health.

alternatives to punishment

Glad you enjoyed this article, it’s such an important topic Jona as violence is being inflicted onto children everyday, resulting in depression and suicide amongst kids and teens – talking about it can and does change attitudes towards this acceptable form of domestic violence. Skippy

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my form of reinforcement

my kid is very active and cant sit still for a min. when she does something wrong i blindfold her and ask her to sit in a corner. nobody talks with her. since she can’t see anything, it gives her time to analyse and realize her mistake. initially i asked her to close her  but to no avail. i don’t believe in physical punishment as it creates a resentment among the kids and we turn to become their enemies.

Cheers! I will post in a


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My 3 cents and Alternative to Punishment – Kudos to you both! Great tips and advices!


alternatives to punishment

Foreverj, your welcome, glad you got something out of it 🙂

Being a parent is not easy as each day our level of acceptance to different situations can vary. It is the same with a child, they too mood swing !! A loving voice with reason is a great combination for sure 🙂

as usual, skippy, u touch

as usual, skippy, u touch on topics of interest dear to most parents’ hearts! thank u for a great article again…

for myself, i mentally try to refrain from screaming my head off to my dd since back when i was young, i really hated it when my mum screamed her head off at me. she did that when i tried talking to her on the phone n she didn’t know better. i was hurled insulting words when she told me to take something n becos of her unclear directions, i didn’t know wat she wanted. i believe most of us try to avoid the very same mistakes our parents committed when we were young.

when my emotions almost get the better of me, i would remind myself that by screaming at her, i wil achieve nothing of what i wanted to achieve in the first place. instead, i wil simply end up with a kid with a brutalised self-esteem. becos my dd is always showered with lots of love, the only thing that calms her down so she stops crying is really a loving hug from me. so i’ve learnt thru experience that its truly the best solution in tantrums/outbursts etc. while hugging her, then i would explain to her in a loving voice my position and stand and reason for tantrum/outburst so she can understand n won’t make the same mistake again.

Alternatives to punishment

Thanks My 3 cents – I think the V model can help parents towards the child’s independent choices very well !!

Your scenario and model of dealing with anger by going to your ‘green room’ is also great as we are asked to have time out during a fit of anger to cool off – that is meeting the parents need to breathe again –

However we also have to come back and meet the child’s needs!! You can see my blog on Problem Solving. The need is not to silence the child but to empower the child, siblings in your case to come up with a better way of problem solving. All sibling fights are due to one child not being heard or one child not getting his/her needs met. This skill will help them through school, teenager phase and into adults. When we have a disagreement with our teacher we cannot walk out on it, when we grow up and marry and have a disagreement with our spouse we cannot not acknowledge it.

I would add “Mummy is going to her green room as I cannot talk to you when I am so angry, while I am gone, you two girls need to talk to each other without yelling and come up with an agreement or a solution to your problem” then when you are calmer, you return to facilitate the process… the more we do this, the more skilled the child becomes and soon, instead of fighting the behaviour is replaced with chatting toward a solution – and yes it does happen. Anger is a normal human emotion not to be suppressed but expressed in a healthy manner.

Lastly on anger, every behaviour expert tells us that consistency is the key to changing any behaviour, so for anything to work, we have to stick with it, try it for a good period of time before we jump back to the method we feel most comfortable with i.e. punishment. We can however agree to disagree gracefully !

I absolutely agree with your point 3 – we can do this without being abstract e.g. Abstract would mean “What a good girl you are” !! instead point to the behaviour that you are admiring in this “No Problem Area”. “I really liked it when you washed your plate after dinner and put away your glass, thanks very much” or “I noticed you did your homework without me reminding you, it really does help me to know that you are taking responsibility for your own work, well done”. “It’s been 3 days now since you girls have had your last argument, I love to see you both chatting to each other instead of fighting”.

Thanks again for your valued input.


You're welcome...wished I

You’re welcome…wished I could say been-there-done-that but we’re all learning to be better parents.

All the best!  PM me and tell me how it goes.

Time out for me

Hi Andaiz,

I totally know what you mean by the occasional angry mama and the yell part..after that I’ll be guilty like anything.. Thank you for the "green room" example. I’m so going to try it!!



My 3 Cents

Great post, Skippy!  Three key alternatives I’d like to share

1.  "V" System of Choice

Yes, I agree with narrowing down the choices for younger children.  Something I learnt from a Parenting with Confidence seminar….the "V" system of options for kids.

As they grow to toddlerhood, provide two options: "We’re going out as soon as you are dressed. Now, would you like the red shirt or orange shirt?" (put shirts before child)

As they progress: "We’re going out soon.Would you like the shirt/jeans or dress?"(again show child the suits prepared).

Further on, do without the showing.

And even further down the road:"We’re going out now, please dress yourself." (YOu could also give them a background to the place you’re going to so they can dress appropriately.

The logic is to "V".  Place your forefinger and middle finger into a "V" shape.  When the children are younger (nearer to the skin fold that connects both fingers), give them narrow choices – 2 at best i.e., colour in our example above;  as they grow older, we move along the finger – notice that the options EXPAND; now it’s kinds of clothes (still a guide right?); further on, just give request to dress self…

No guidelines as to how old each stage is suitable for the child.  Depends on maturity and independence…but bottom line is you provide explicit options in the first instance and then work towards child being independent enough to deal with ambiguity. 

Frankly, that’s the only thing we can do coz we’re not with them 100% of the time.  Gotta teach them thought process – the rest is up to the kid!

2.  Model How to deal with Anger

I don’t know about you but I can come across as an angry momma!  I yell when I’m angry and being a FTWM (no excuses, I know), I am impatient with results.

I’ve learnt (the hard way like some of you posers out there) that children model our behaviour. Tried this once and from then on, works like a charm! 

DD2 and DD3 were squabbling and even with added and escalated warning, refused to  stop.  I’ve had enough of that and I know that if I were to open my mouth one more time, the entire street can hear me scream…so why even go there?

I looked at the both of them, got down to their level and said quietly, "mummy’s going to step outside to the green room now till I’ve cooled down.  I’ll come back when I’m ready to talk to you calmly.  Thank you." 

That shocked them into silence and they really got together and were quiet till I came back, gave them a hug and thanked them for understanding.  By then, I could speak nicely to them.

Just two days later, DD2 became quite quiet during one of these spats with DD1.  She stood up, knowing that she wasn’t getting anywhere, and repeated almost verbatim what I’d said ; and successfully averted the shouting match.

3. Catch them doing right

And what did I do then?  Gave her a great hug and basically caught her doing it right.

Now that’s my peacekeeper in the family!  Affirming their good behaviour by catching them doing things right works far better, I’d think, because our children want to please us.

That said, I won’t spare the rod if DD’s do not tow the line and ought to be taught to do so.



That’s true.

——————————– Amy

Alternatives to punishment


In fact when you talk to your children and say something like “Can you please stop yelling across the room” they are likely to one day say “but you do this to daddy all the time” – Oops! Caught out 🙂


“How come you go to orchard road and do all that shopping for yourself and when I need a new dress you say we don’t have any money” !! Huumm…. You are as a parent, are role modelling with everything you do – you are on reality television so to speak – nothing is missed even when the lights go off.


one more impt point:

one more impt point: Parents should always set a role model to children!

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