Parenting Tip #3: Always be prompt as you reward or punish your children!

Both reward and punishment work best if they are given as soon as possible after the child's action that you want to increase or decrease. Research has shown the ideal to be about one half second after the child's response. Of course this is often not possible or practical for many reasons. The reason reward and punishment should happen so soon after the child's response is because both reward and punishment have an effect on the action that comes just before them regardless of what action you are intending to reward or punish. So if you saw your child hit his sister then a half hour later you decide to punish him for that wrong action, but by then he is sitting quietly with her teaching her to recite Qu'ran, it is actually the response of helping his sister that is being punished, not the hitting. So in the future you would expect to see no reduction in how often the boy hits his sister, but you would expect to see him help his sister learn to recite Qu'ran less often. This is exactly what you don't want to see. Now few of us (hopefully) use reward or punishment so badly, but the purpose of this example is only to show why promptness is important. If, as is sometimes the case, you have to wait some long period of time before you can reward or punish your child you can make that reward or punishment most effective by recreating in the mind of your child the full circumstances of the behaviour that is being rewarded or punished. When doing this you should be sure to say very specifically what the response was that is being punished, and try to bring as full a picture as possible of that event back into the mind of your child. In the example given above the conversation might go something like this:

    "About a half hour ago when you and your little sister were playing in the yard I saw you hit her on the arm so hard it made her cry. That was a bad thing to do. Allah wants us to show love and kindness to others, particularly within our own family. So I feel I have to punish you (in this case only by giving gentle advice as to what he did wrong) for hitting her to help you learn that hitting people we should love is a very wrong thing to do, and is against the Will of Allah. But now I have scolded you for what you did wrong a while ago, I also want to tell you that what you are doing now, helping your sister to recite Qu'ran, is a wonderful thing to do. I am sure Allah is very pleased to see you doing such a good thing, and I am very happy to see you being such a good brother."

Note: When giving the scolding (punishment) to your child it is best to keep your tone of voice and manner neutral, neither harsh nor kind; but, when you are giving the praise (reward) it should be with a very positive voice and manner, gentle voice and loving actions.

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