Google+ Authentic Parenting: Tuning In: Prevention as an Alternative to Punishment

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tuning In: Prevention as an Alternative to Punishment

Have you ever watched your child(ren) and pretty much figured out that something "bad" was about to happen?  You know, that moment before the meltdown, the minutes before the screaming match between siblings, or the seconds before the paint crashes to the ground?

How helpful would it be if we could foresee it all coming crashing into those moments of tears, stress, sibling spats, tantrums and so on...?

Chris JL / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Punishment often follows when children have done something they shouldn't have, and yet very often undesirable or unwanted behaviors can be prevented if we just tune in.

Tuning in to our children and setting them up to succeed are wonderful ways to prevent undesirable behavior and I find it is one of the keys of making non punitive parenting successful.

In our house, I have figured out that higher pitched voices usually lead to sibling squabbles, so when I hear that particular tone of voice from one or more of the kids, I try to make myself available, be attentive and near. I don't need to necessarily intervene each time, but I try to be close by just in case.  Sometimes I can sense that help is needed and I can step in, but more and more, simply seeing me is a cue to slow down and work things out between siblings.

Not too long ago, I heard that high pitched voice.  As I walked into the playroom I could sense the tension in both my boys, they each wanted the same toy. Their voices were strained, their bodies tense and hands were at the ready! I calmly walked by, appearing to be busy, but smiled at both boys as I walked past. My six year old relaxed, looked at his brother and said "hey, let's try to figure this out, tell me your idea and I'll tell you mine!"   That was it!  I heard them talk it out and they made their own decisions - but I think my little walk by and warm smile made a difference. Ok, that, a little bit of luck and using a lot of reflective listening in the past. But, I'm pretty sure that if they had been left all on their own, they would have escalated out of pure frustration.

Prevention is sometimes so simple, putting away the breakables, stowing cleaners and valuables out of reach and so on.  Other times, it's about tuning in and figuring out these small warning signs - which can be so worth it!

So, what warning signs do you get and how do you go about preventing undesirable outcomes?

Ariadne Brill is a certified positive discipline parenting educator. She has three children, loves chocolate and is passionate about helping parents and children create harmony at home. Find Ariadne on Facebook and at the positive parenting connection



  1. So true. Tuning in is underrated for kids *and* adults alike. Punishments are given out like band-aids a lot of the time when listening in could have prevented the entire episode. Listening is difficult, but truly worth the time.

    And that quote from your six-year old is great – a really mature response!

  2. Elizabeth,
    So true listening to others, truly listening, child OR adult can really make a difference! Thank you!


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