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Published on Jul 18, 2022
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Sophia Clark

What Is Positive Punishment |

Have you heard about "Positive Punishment"? If this is the first time you have heard the saying "Positive Punishment," it might sound confusing and contradictory.

"Positive" and "Punishment" seem like two terms that shouldn't be used jointly. You may have heard about positive parenting. Contrary to the generally accepted meaning of the word “positive," the concept of positive punishment is slightly different in this context.


Parenting and disciplining children can be challenging for every parent, especially when children throw tantrums and inappropriate behaviors and parents can't handle it.

There are parenting websites, books and techniques such as authoritarian, authoritative, gentle parenting, but positive punishment is also essential.

Positive punishment will be clear to you once you know its definition and see some examples of positive punishment. This article will guide you to know the meaning and purpose of "What is positive punishment" with real life examples.

What Is Positive Punishment?

Positive punishment doesn't mean doing something positive but doing something unpleasant to change children's behavior. The main reason to implement positive punishment involves preventing the same behavior from occurring in the future.

To make it easier to understand, think of positive punishment this way- two negatives make a positive which means when a negative consequence follows negative behavior, it generates a positive behavior. In this case, the word "positive" doesn't mean something nice.

While punishing, scolding, and yelling at children is never a good thing, in certain cases, parents and teachers need to teach them the right thing for which positive punishment is practiced.

Positive punishment is one type of operant conditioning. This theory of Operant conditioning describes positive punishment as a method of learning in which bad behavior is controlled by consequences such as reward or punishment called "learning by consequence."

BF Skinner introduced positive punishment as one of the four types of operant conditioning that can lead to behavior changes in his theory of operant conditioning. The four types, according to BF skinner, include:

Positive Punishment: The concept of positive punishment is when you introduce an unpleasant outcome resulting from an unwanted behavior to prevent that particular behavior occurring again.

Negative Punishment: Unlike positive punishment, when you add a consequence, negative punishment involves removing or taking away something that likely discourages behavior that is negative.

Positive Reinforcement: It differs from positive punishment by the wished consequence. While the result of the positive punishment discourages behavior from reoccurring, a positive reinforcement schedule is given to encourage certain behavior from happening again.

Negative Reinforcement: With negative reinforcement, it is still expected that the particular behavior will resume by taking out something from the combination.

How to use positive punishment?

Parents feel exhausted and perplexed when they have to bear the child's inappropriate behaviors and tantrums. As physical punishments are not good for children, positive punishment should be implemented.

Let's look at effective positive punishment and the guidelines for using positive punishment.

1.Use consequences that have meaning.

Children do not learn unless they are taught about the consequences of their behavior. Children can be impolite and rude, but that doesn't mean parents have to shout back and yell at them.

Instead, to make them understand the consequences of their behavior, make them do something such as writing an essay by apologizing for their manners and making them do chores around the house to change their behavior.

2. Be precise about the consequences.

If you clearly explain to your child that their one negative behavior could lead to other specific consequences, this can teach them not to repeat the same mistake.

3. Have conversations about problem-solving.

Parents should always engage their children in problem-solving conversations together. Talking about the problem can be overwhelming, and the children might feel they are being punished.

So have a nice talk with them about their options when they stay out late or when they break their curfew. Parents should clearly mention further outcomes if they repeat the same actions.

4. Stay consistent with what you've said.

After you have made your children aware of the results of their actions, don't back away and stay firm with what you have said. When the time comes to implement your decisions, don't get carried away by your emotions.

5. Engage your child's self-interest.

Ask them their thoughts and actions about what they will do if they get into some trouble. Children don't want to get punishment, so getting them to think about how to avoid that punishment will help encourage better behavior.

6. Make them accountable for their behavior.

Parents should teach children to be accountable for their behavior. Even if they don't like it, holding accountability can make them realize their behavior and consider future activities.

7. Don't criticize your children when they behave badly.

As a parent and teacher, it is your responsibility to teach and encourage them, so don't disdain or use negative comments toward them. Showing disgust when they repeat the negative behavior can cause the opposite effect.

Positive punishment aims to teach them to behave well, not make them feel worthless.

Some Examples Of Positive Punishment

  • Screaming at a child for bad behavior.
  • Pushing them to do an undesirable task when they misbehave.
  • Making them do chores and responsibilities when they can't follow the rules.
  • Assigning students who ignore to give their assignments extra jobs.
  • Implementing more regulations and restrictions when a teen misses curfew.

Pros of Positive Punishment

There are positive and negative outcomes of positive punishment, and the following are the pros of effective positive punishment.

  • The child will understand that their negative behavior is not acceptable and refrains from the behavior from happening in the future.
  • They will learn why they must behave properly to avoid the consequences of their actions.
  • The child is assigned punishment or negative consequences, which guides her that aggressive behavior isn't tolerated to accomplish things.

Cons of Positive Punishment

There are some downsides to positive punishment. They are:

  • Positive punishment can suppress a child's negative emotions and behavior rather than teach them to act nicely.
  • Children may backfire and resist and increase aggressive behavior in them.
  • It can cause fear in children, and they could distance themselves from social situations.
  • It doesn't always teach children of positive behavior but the exact opposite. They may show unwanted behavior.


Positive punishment may not seem the most fitting disciplining method, but it can be more effective when combined with positive and negative reinforcement. Ultimately, the main goal is to teach your child how to have good behavior.

Through this article, I hope you are clear about "what does positive punishment mean" and what positive punishment involves.

Frequently Asked Questions

I. How do teachers use positive punishment techniques?

Teachers may resort to scolding, making children write lines, and imposing new rules as negative consequences when students misbehave in class. These punishments will make them think twice before they repeat a mistake rather than physical punishments.

II. How do I discipline a child who doesn't care?

Disciplining a child who doesn't seem to care can be tricky. Instead of trying physical punishments in the heat of the moment, prepare a list of consequences that will matter to them. For example, think of chores or tasks they are not particularly fond of so it stops from the behavior occurring again.

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