I’m trying to improve my son’s behavior. People have recommended taking away something he likes. I’ve punished him by taking away his toys and video games, but nothing seems to work.
The purpose of punishment (or, as we are required to call it in education, “consequences”) is to make it more uncomfortable for children to do things the wrong way than the right way. Over time, they learn that bad behavior has bad repercussions, and they stick to the preferred path.
It’s true that punishing kids quite often comes in the form of removing something they like. You mentioned toys and video games. Cell phones, TV time, and sports are others. If they’re old enough, there’s always the car or money. “Grounding” also falls under this category.
Note: Just because your child tells you he doesn’t care about losing any of these privileges doesn’t mean it’s true. We all have this thing called “pride” that can preclude us from admitting defeat, even when we’re clearly licked. When students are sent to in-school suspension they invariably return to tell the class how much fun they had. But when I offer to send them back, they quickly clam up.
The point is that punishment can take time to work. Your son may not care about losing his video games for a day, but what about a week? Or two weeks? Or a month? In many cases, ineffectiveness is not a matter of the consequence being too light, but being too brief.
Assuming you’ve taken things away for a suitable period of time and none of it has worked, then it’s time to add something. Losing a privilege is uncomfortable, but so is taking on a burden. For many parents, this is the favored method.
It can entail administering a chore. The