5 Reasons Why a Good Relationship Works Better than Punishment


How would you feel if I told you that you can eliminate punishments in your home? No more time-outs, groundings, restricting electronics – nothing.

Sound too good to be true?

When I tell this to my clients, most react skeptically. They immediately ask, “What will we use in place of punishment? After all, kids need to learn from their mistakes!”

And I agree. But you can motivate your children to make healthy decisions by creating a positive relationship with them.

In fact, here are five reasons why a positive relationship actually works better than punishment.

Reason #1: Parents have more influence through positive relationships than through punishment.

Consider this: Who are you more likely to be influenced by?

Option #1: Someone you respect and trust who treats you with the same respect (even when they’re being firm and enforcing rules).

Option #2: Someone who dictates and directs you without listening to your perspective.

Just like us, our kids are more likely to pick option #1. If we listen respectfully to them, they are more likely to listen respectfully to us.

OK, maybe there are times when we are influenced by people we don’t trust – but it’s usually in negative ways. That brings us to Reason #2.

Reason #2: Positive relationships prevent the “I’ll Show You” Syndrome

Often when kids have a negative relationship with their parents, they intentionally make unhealthy choices just to frustrate/anger/worry their parents.

Yes, these kids know the “right” thing to do. But the satisfaction they get from going against their parents’ wishes overrides the risk of negative consequences. They are lashing out because their parents have hurt or frustrated them, and they want to do it right back.

Effective strategy? No. Common strategy used by kids of all ages? Yes.

Reason #3: When you have a positive relationship, your kids are more likely to get over your (inevitable) parenting screw-ups.

We are human, and we do mess up. Fortunately, there’s a relationships principle on the opposite end of the “I’ll show you” Syndrome, and it helps motivate positive behavior when you make a mistake or lose your temper.

If your relationship with your child is in a good place and you have a “bad day” and lose it,  your child is much less likely to be affected by your negative behavior because of all the good mojo you’ve already created.

But if your relationship is not in a good place and your child has already stored up resentment towards you, he or she is more likely to act out when you lose your cool.

Reason #4: Kids get their sense of “belonging” from home.

Human beings are social creatures that need a sense of belonging and connection. We search out people that value and “get” us.

When kids are told what to do and how to do it all day long, they don’t develop that sense of value. They feel like their way is the “wrong” way, and instead of “belonging,” they feel disconnected and misunderstood.

When that happens, do they give up their craving for belonging and connection? Nope. They find it elsewhere — often from peer groups. And I’m not sure about you, but when it comes to making decisions, I’d rather have my kids be influenced my advice than the advice of their friends!

Reason #5: Kids who are close to their parents become friends with other kids close to their parents.

After working with parents, adolescents, and children for so many years, I’ve noticed an interesting trend: kids who are close to their parents tend to be friends with other kids who are close to their parents.

And what kind of kid remains close with his or her parents? One who probably values, respects, and enjoys being with them and as a result, probably makes some pretty good decisions… specifically, the kind of healthy decisions we’d all like our children to be making.