Positive and negative punishments: do we know how to distinguish them and use them well?

Many times we apply the punishments to children without distinguishing well what punishment is positive or negative and what consequences will each of them have on the behavior of our children. In reality, the positive and negative terms in relation to punishments are related to the appearance or disappearance of a stimulus.

Positive punishments

The positive punishment It aims to repeat a behavior that causes the child negative consequences. We speak of positive punishment when there is an unpleasant stimulus every time we do a behavior that is intended to reduce or eliminate. For example, if a child bites his nails and a bitter product has been applied to prevent him from biting them. Every time she bites her nails she will receive a positive punishment in the form of an unpleasant stimulus, her nails taste bitter. The message is to avoid biting your nails because if you do it will be unpleasant.

Negative punishments

The negative punishment it means absence or withdrawal of a pleasant stimulus when an inappropriate behavior is carried out. For example, children who are watching a movie will stop watching the movie if they start fighting or talking during the movie.

Negative punishment is very appropriate in some circumstances, for example when a child is receiving chips, cards or points to be able to control a behavior. He knows that if he performs inappropriate behavior he can lose points, stickers or things that he likes.

Before applying the negative punishment, children should be warned of the consequences of carrying out inappropriate behaviors.

Alternatives to punishments

1. Ignore or be indifferent to negative behavior.For example, in the case of tantrums. Instead of giving him a slap, or start to scream like "what are you talking about, I do not aguntooo, you are a burden !!!!, try to take him to his room so that he cries at ease and if you can not give him more importance, better, when he and you calm down, ask for forgiveness, and explain why it is silly to cry without stopping Do not forget that it is a frequent behavior in children of 2 to 3 years that you must educate.

2. Turn around and remove the look or attention until it rectifies. Your four-year-old daughter just called you a fool. The first time you insulted her, you explained that you should never call anyone a fool, but not mom or dad. But he repeats it again. Instead of giving him a slap in the mouth, do not look at him again until he asks you for forgiveness and tells you that he will try hard not to repeat it again.

3. The overcorrection technique: consisting of repairing what he has done but in a somewhat exaggerated way: for example, a child throws a piece of paper and must collect all the papers from the yard; he rages a chair, and he must stay to collect all the chairs of the class or house; She leaves her clothes on the floor and must spend the whole afternoon sorting out her wardrobe.

4. The satiation technique: consisting of repeating the undesirable behavior until you find no pleasure in it: for example, unrolls the toilet paper and we have a long time unrolling rolls; he is funny in class, and we take him to the blackboard so that he can thank us during the whole class. This technique is often used to eliminate tics (make him repeat it many times in front of a mirror).

How should the punishment be?

1. Immediate. The punishment that is administered when it has elapsed since the offense committed, is useless.

2. Consistent. The child should know that whenever he does not meet a standard, the punishment will be the consequence that follows him, (remove the baby's cart if he enters the room with him and we have told him not to do it) and not that it depends on the mood of the child. that my father or professor is today ... if not, he always has the chance to try and see what happens today.

3. Uncommon, reserved for very special occasions, because if one does not get used to the punishment it may not be effective, or other side effects may appear that we mentioned before.

4. Fair and proportional to the fault committed: Beware of threatening excessive punishments that there is no one to comply with: "I'm not going to give you a video movie anymore". It is the best way to lose authority. It is preferable a light but consistent punishment, than a very intense but rarely met.

5. Warned, so that it does not "fall from the sky" and be lived as unjust. Threatening several times is the best way to lose authority. Once the punishment has been set, it must be fulfilled: the person is forgiven, but the punishment is carried out.

Advice against punishments

1. Before a bad action of our children, the first calm. It is much healthier for us and for them. Check it.

2. Whenever an unjustified slap escapes you, say sorry. Do not think that you lose authority, but quite the opposite.Explain why it is wrong what you have done, but tell him that you love him very much and embrace him.

3. Always avoid derogatory comments or compare it with other children or with their siblings: "you are a disaster", "you always do everything wrong", "you are bad" ... the behavior is punished but not the person: "this is wrong, but you are not bad , you do not realize it and I'm going to help you do it right ". However small our children may be, they will understand it better.

4. If your child is something more mature, with five or six years, You may find it useful to establish what is called "behavioral contracts". In these, what we do is to specify, by mutual agreement, a series of improvement aspects or rules to be complied with, and what is going to happen if it is not fulfilled, and what will happen if it is fulfilled. To be effective, it must be the result of the agreement and be "signed" by both parties.

Ask yourself from time to time, how many times a day have you told your son: "How well you have ordered Mary today"; "Very good Juan, yesterday you did not get up when you went to bed" "Very good Pedro, today you have not insulted anyone" "Very good Teresa, today you have not entered the room with the baby cart" and compare with the times that you have punished them for a bad action. The balance always has to be superior to the times we have praised him for his good deeds than for the times we have punished him.

Marisol Nuevo Espín
Advice: Teresa Artola. PhD in Psychology

It may interest you:

- The cheek: why is it never an effective punishment?

- Positive reinforcement in the face of child punishment

- Tips to educate without punishing

- How to handle bad childhood behavior

Video: Operant conditioning: Positive-and-negative reinforcement and punishment | MCAT | Khan Academy

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