The Differences Between Positive and Negative Punishment
Parents often use punishments to try to correct their children’s bad behavior. However, most parents use this method without knowing the differences between positive and negative punishment.
Punishment is the least recommended behavior modification technique and should only be used in extreme cases. This is because it’s a measure that doesn’t allow children to learn what mistakes they’ve made nor improve their behavior.
“The worst thing is to teach using methods based on fear, strength, and authority, because you destroy sincerity and trust, and only achieve false submission.”
– Albert Einstein –
The differences between positive and negative punishment
We use punishment so that undesirable conduct doesn’t reoccur, or at least to prevent it from happening as often. There are two ways to implement this method: through positive punishment or negative punishment. We’re now going to explain the differences between these two types of punishment.
Before we go any further, we should make it clear that the word “positive” isn’t used here as something beneficial – it refers to carrying out an action. When applying a positive punishment, the parent gives the child something unpleasant in order to penalize inappropriate behavior.
This unpleasant stimulus that’s used to punish bad behavior can consist of carrying out an action, giving an object, transmitting an emotion, and so on. Some examples of positive punishments would be:
- Making the child face the wall
- Reacting angrily
However, experts don’t recommend this form of education, as it incites violence, aggressiveness, revenge, among other things. We should, therefore, avoid using these methods.
Again, the word “negative” here implies that you’re taking something away, it doesn’t refer to whether it is beneficial or not.
Negative punishment consists of eliminating something that the child enjoys doing when he or she behaves badly. As in the previous case, you can withdraw an object, an action, or something the child enjoys, etc. For example, some common negative punishments often given to children are:
- Not allowing them to watch TV
- Grounding them (they can’t go out)
- Not letting them play
- Taking away their favorite toy or game
- Not letting them have their favorite dessert
- Sending them to their room
The consequences of this type of punishment
It’s very important to keep in mind that this behavior modification technique should only be used when other correction methods have already been put into practice and none of them have worked, such as:
- Using dialogue and reflection
- Providing positive reinforcement
- Changing the situation
- Ignoring undesirable behavior
- Offering time and distance
- Proposing different choices to solve the problem
In addition, when you decide to impose a punishment, you must apply it immediately after the problematic behavior arises. You must, at the same time, explain the reason for your actions, and keep calm at all times.
It’s also very necessary to always reward and reinforce (with a compliment, a loving gesture, etc.) a child’s good behavior after they’ve previously misbehaved. For example, if they’ve been punished for not picking up their toys, then, when they finally pick them up, they must then be praised for doing the right thing.
In short, in order to educate your children well, you should avoid the frequent use of these punishments. This is because they can create different negative effects on children and their relationship with those around them. For example:
- Social and coexistence problems
- Low self-esteem
So, if you’re a mother or father who uses traditional punishment as the main method to correct your child’s behavior, then it’s time to change! Try to learn and practice more positive alternatives to punishment!It might interest you...
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Albert, M. (2007). Técnicas de modificación de conducta. Recuperado de: http://www.praderwilliar.com.ar/archivos/libro/DOCS/pdf/ANEX-V.pdf
- Schunk, D. H. (1997). Teorías del aprendizaje. México: Pearson Educación.