Many people are advocates for harsh parenting, spanking, “punishment” if you will. Using punishment is a deterrent - you are causing negative consequences in hopes of stomping out a behavior that you don't like. With some minor issues negative consequences can work, but in general they are far inferior to positively reinforcing the behavior that you DO want.
Studies show over and over again that giving rewards for positive behavior outshines punishing bad behavior by more than 4 to 1. This means that using positive rewards will net you the behavior you are looking for 4 times more often than simply punishing bad behavior.
Make family rules and take some of your children's input as well. These are now family rules that everyone, including you, needs to follow. These can be things like no yelling, no lying, etc. Make them general. After each rule, add a consequence. Post this list on the refrigerator and when someone does something on the list direct them back to the house rules list and the recommended consequence. I recommend time out's and family discussions as a first and second line of defense.
This should be the majority of the punishment dolled out in your household. The kids know the punishment ahead of time, it seems fair and just, they had feedback to the rules, and they are not rules for them they are rules for everyone.
Buy some cheap rocks or pebbles from a dollar store and get one jam jar for each kid. Label each jar and put them on a mantle or other highly visible place in the home. Make sure to keep some pebbles in your pocket every day. Whenever you see your kids doing something right, stop them and tell them they are doing good and let them watch as you place a pebble in their jar.
Make it a competition about who can get more stones this week and provide rewards for the kids to get by using their stones to purchase things. I suggest using parent time as one of the bigger rewards, such as dinner alone with Mommy, or movie night with Daddy. You can also include sleep overs. Some parents get crafty and make sleep overs at a friends house cheap while a sleep over at home is expensive. You can make up the prices as you see fit. Get creative.
By setting up rules and punishments ahead of time, and by making a much bigger deal out of the positive rewards, you will see your kids invested in changing their own behavior. Try this for a few weeks consistently before you determine if you like it – change at first can cause anxiety but the kids should pick this up quickly. They are a lot smarter than you give them credit for.
Written by Brad Messenger, LMSW.