Parenting is not easy! From the moment children are born, they require time and dedication. As young children, they rely on you for their survival. The more they grow, they become more independent, but they won’t stop needing their parents for a long time. Being involved in a person’s life for years and years can feel daunting.

You may wonder: how can I be a good parent? Unfortunately for many to hear, being a good parent often means punishing and disciplining their children. Punishments can feel overwhelming and harsh, but necessary. Many parents feel this way, so many have started enforcing negative punishment!

What is Negative Punishment?

Punishment in itself is defined as a process to discourage a specific act or behavior. Negative punishment may sound as though you are addressing bad behaviors with harshness and negativity. However, negative punishment is the act of removing or taking away something desirable to encourage good behavior. The use of negative may feel out of place in this scenario. VeryWellMind describes it simplest,

“One of the easiest ways to remember this concept is to note that in behavioral terms, positive means adding something while negative means taking something away. “

In other words, positive punishment is when you add discouraging language or acts to a situation, and negative punishment is when you take away something they enjoy. By taking something away from your child, you are teaching them that they miss out when they don’t behave. This type of punishment conditions them to avoid bad behavior to keep the things they like.

You can learn more about punishment and its effects with medically-reviewed articles from BetterHelp.

Examples of Negative Punishment

There are many ways you can implement negative punishment into your child’s life. Choosing things to take away should always depend on the child’s desires and their bad behavior or action.

Something also to note: parents should never take away life-essential items. For example, withholding food, drink, bathroom privileges, beds, and other basic living items. The most common form of this is going to bed without dinner; this is not acceptable behavior.

A parent should also never enforce isolation or take time away from the family. This is different from time out. Forced isolation refers to locking someone away without human contact.

Some acceptable examples of negative punishment may include the following.

Negative Punishment Examples for Children 

Taking away a young boy’s lego set for the rest of the day because he would not share it with his sister.

If a sixteen-year-old girl lies about her whereabouts, her parents can take away her driving privileges for two weeks.

A four-year-old boy hits his older sister with a play bat, so the father will take away the child’s play bat and ball for a few hours.

If a young child is yelling at his parents and family, they may take away his screen time for the remainder of the day.

Negative Punishment That Adults Experience 

Negative punishment is much more prevalent in our society than we think. As adults, we are threatened with negative punishment every day!

A thirty-year-old man has been caught speeding multiple times, he will have his license taken away and his car impounded.

If a young woman ignores the tasks of her manager, she may be reprimanded or fired for her poor work ethic.

Someone is told not to use flash photography in a history museum, they will be escorted out of the building for not following the rules.

How to Apply Negative Punishment and Its Benefits

Application of Negative Punishment

If you plan to practice negative punishment in your household, be prepared to be consistent and quick. When you see a negative behavior or action from your child, it is best to act quickly. Your child should make the connection between bad behavior and the loss of something. If you wait until after the misbehaving has been subdued, it will not be nearly as effective.

Similarly, not practicing negative punishment consistently can make it less potent. Children that are handed out punishments sporadically are not likely to make the connection between misbehavior and punishment. By administering negative punishment every time a persistent behavior shows up, children are more likely to understand the why.

Benefits of Negative Punishment

The most obvious benefit of negative punishment is good behavior! A child that is repeatedly introduced to negative punishment will begin to see a pattern. They will quickly learn that bad behavior equals less enjoyment. By practicing negative punishment regularly and continuously, your child will recognize their misbehavior and you will effective results.

Negative punishment can also prepare children as they grow older. The more you are accustomed to negative punishment, the more likely you will react to it as an adult. For example, a child that grew up with negative punishment will understand the importance of work ethic as an adult. Negative punishment prepares children for laws, work dynamics, social settings, etc.

What are the Drawbacks of Negative Punishment?

One drawback of negative punishment is that it requires consistency and persistent instruction. For example, removing an item from a child for a few minutes now and again will not be as effective as removing an item for a few hours and every time the child misbehaves. Without consistency, children will probably result back to their previous actions. A parent must convey seriousness and firmness in the face of bad behavior.

Another drawback is persistent instruction. When you take away a desirable thing from a child without a reason, they will be confused and likely to lash out. Parents must take the time to effectively explain why they are removing something. Parents that do not explain their reasoning will usually see more misbehaving.

What Now?

Negative punishment can be highly valuable for parents looking to discipline their children and raise respectful individuals. Using the information you’ve learned, apply that to your own parenting experience. Consider the age of your child and appropriate negative punishments for them. With consistency and instruction, you can properly prepare your children for the future.




Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.

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