10 Positive Punishment Techniques

Updated July 21, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

As parents, it's natural to wonder what the most positive and effective punishment is to discipline your child.

How Vital Is Positive Punishment? Is This Something You Should Incorporate?

What Is Positive Punishment?

When you have a particularly boisterous child, it can be tricky to determine the best way to discipline them. You want the discipline to be effective without it being extreme. The more stubborn the child, the harder your job becomes. One of the methods that people tend to use is positive punishment.

You may think that positive punishment means that it’s always good, but this is not the case. While some forms of positive punishment have proven to be effective, others do more harm than good. Positive punishment simply means that you’re responding to negative behavior with a negative consequence. Think of it as two negatives making a positive.

Difference Between Positive And Negative Punishment

There is a nuanced difference between positive and negative punishment. Positive punishment means that there’s a negative consequence for negative behavior. Negative punishment means that you are taking away something desirable in response to negative behavior. For example, grounding is a positive punishment because you are adding a negative consequence, but specifically taking away the ability to go to a party would be a negative punishment. As you can see, the differences can be extremely subtle.

As a parent, the difference probably isn’t that important. You just want to know what works best. If you have problems with your child’s behavior, know that you’re not alone. Roughly 8 percent of all children have been diagnosed with a behavior problem. If your child has been diagnosed, this is a good thing because you can begin to treat the issue at home.

Positive Punishment Techniques

There are many positive punishment techniques that you can use in your discipline strategy. It is always a good idea to make the punishment fit the crime. If the negative behavior is minor, a scolding may suffice. If the negative behavior is more serious or frequent, a sterner punishment may be required to break the pattern. Here are a few techniques to consider:

  • Marker System: The marker system is a good way to incorporate positive punishment with positive reinforcement. This is similar to a method used in schools. A child gets their name written on the board with a mark for bad behavior. Each time the negative behavior is displayed, you place another marker on the chart. If good behavior is displayed, you take away a marker. If the day ends with no marks on the chart, the child gets a reward.
  • Scolding: This typical positive punishment is frequently done by parents without much thought. A scolding could be done in public or private, and there are different schools of thought on each. Some teachers implement scolding in front of the entire class. But some psychologists suggest that scolding a child in public can be an embarrassing and traumatic experience.
  • Spanking: There is a lot of debate around this form of positive punishment. While nearly 70 percent of Americans feel that spanking is an appropriate form of punishment, many psychologists disagree, believing it’s ineffective and ultimately harmful.
  • Time Out: Many psychologists recommend this form of positive punishment, though it should be appropriate for the age. The general rule of thumb is one minute for each year of age. The effectiveness of the time out depends on your consistency and persistence, not to mention the stubbornness of your child.
  • Writing Sentences or Essays: Schools have used this as a form of positive punishment for decades, and it’s an effective form of discipline. You can easily use this form of discipline in your own home as well.
  • Adding Chores: Adding chores to your child’s to-do list can also be used as a form of positive punishment, particularly in place of lengthy time-out sessions or grounding. It keeps the child active, crosses something off the family’s to-do list, and has them contributing to the household. It also prevents them from being isolated for long periods.


    • Grounding: Grounding is another common form of positive punishment. When you ground your child at home and prevent them from going to events or out with their friends, it could be considered negative punishment. Grounding your child to their room would be more in line with positive punishment, but the line between positive and negative punishment is very vague when it comes to this practice.
    • Early Bedtime or Extra Nap: Early bedtime or an extra naptime is an effective positive punishment for younger children. Children do not want to sleep when they could play or be active, so being forced to sleep is a great deterrent to bad behavior. Also, most small children act out more when they are tired. By making them get some extra sleep, you may be curing the root of the problem.
    • Extra Study Time: Extra study time is another effective form of positive punishment, especially when it’s a response to not doing homework or acting out in class. The extra study time is essentially a natural consequence in these situations. Because the child did not study they were supposed to, they receive extra study time instead of time with games or playing with others.
    • Natural Consequences: Natural consequences are the best form of positive punishment because they teach your children about life. Natural consequences do not require any action from the parent. Instead, these are consequences that occur naturally as the result of bad behavior. For example, if your child doesn’t clean their room and gather their laundry, their laundry does not get washed and dried, so they have to wear dirty clothes.
    How Vital Is Positive Punishment? Is This Something You Should Incorporate?

    Solutions for Positive Discipline

    Consistency is the key to effective positive punishment. Studies have shown that positive punishment is only effective if it is consistent. This means that the same consequence should apply each time the negative behavior is displayed. A lack of consistency will make the punishment less effective.

    It is also important that you use other parenting tools like positive reinforcement in conjunction with positive punishment. If you use positive punishment too frequently without the benefit of a rewards system for good behavior, the child may decide that they are only getting negative feedback regardless of what they do. Then they’re likely to act out further. In that case, the positive punishment will be much less effective.

    Always be sure to explain your expectations to your child. They can only know what they should do if they’re aware of the rules in the first place. They need boundaries, and they need to know that you aren’t disappointed in them if they happen to mess up. Let them know that you love them and support them no matter what. This is imperative, and it can strengthen your bond with your child.

    BetterHelp Can Support You

    If you think your child might have a behavior problem, you should consult a child psychologist. Advice, resources, diagnoses, and treatment are readily available through online counseling. If finding an adequate child psychologist is an issue in your area, rest assured that online counseling has repeatedly been shown to match in-person results.

    If you need this type of support, consider speaking to one of BetterHelp‘s counselors. They have years of experience assisting many people with parenting issues. Whether you want advice or simply need to vent, our counselors are here for you with an unbiased, judgment-free ear. Read the reviews below to see what other people have to say about their experiences with BetterHelp counselors.

    Counselor Reviews

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    “I’ve only been on BetterHelp for a couple of weeks and so far it’s helped me figure out what changes I needed to make in my life to relieve stress. My counselor has been a great help and a great listener! When we had our live call session she was understanding when my kids needed me. She was very patient with my life’s craziness.”


    No matter what, the fact that you’re reading this article shows that you’re trying to be a productive, healthy parent. With the right tools, it’s possible to have a loving relationship and still teach your kids right from wrong.

    Take the first step to improve discipline.

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