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Discipline has always been a major part of raising a child. Giving them zero guidance and ignoring all discipline can lead to a lot of negative things, and there’s no question that it’s important to spend time making sure that your children understand the difference between good behavior and bad. But, that doesn’t mean that punishment is always the best option.

Negative Reinforcement Isn't Always The Best Way To Deal With Challenging Behavior

In fact, there are numerous experts that now say that punishing challenging behavior isn’t as effective as we’ve been lead to believe. One in particular – Dr. Stuart Ablon – has begun urging parents and guardians to start examining the way they interact with children and that they pay attention to some different aspects of a child’s mind.

In particular, new studies have found that in many cases children aren’t being mean or misbehaving because they don’t want to be good. Instead, they simply don’t have the skills needed to control negative behavior fully. While this could be true of any child, those with mental health conditions are even more susceptible to the problem.

It’s similar to a learning disability. With a learning issue, kids have trouble understanding a particular school subject. But with behavioral issues, children have difficulty managing their frustration, their communication skills, or their problem solving abilities. By just punishing a child for their failure to process these things, the problem is only made worse.

It’s a case of ‘skill, not will’. Kids often lack the skills to manage their behavior, not the willpower to do so. There are a few things that you can do to help overcome this issue. For starters, try to control your own frustration and be open to approaching things differently than with outright punishment. Instead, think about these steps.


  • Listen to the child and ask them questions about the problem. One issue with discipline is that parents often don’t consider things from the child’s point of view. Start by talking to them and seeing what their perspective is.
  • Now, explain your concerns. Talk to them about the issue and about why it’s important to change a specific behavior. However, don’t provide a concrete solution.
  • The third step is to talk to the child and come up with a solution together. This helps children learn the skills needed to problem solve and overcome challenging behavior, and also helps them see that there are solutions to almost anything.


Punishment isn’t just no fun – it could also hinder the development of a child. As such, it’s a good idea to re-evaluate the way you and your children interact and overcome problems. Do so, and you may find that things are improved for both of you.

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