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A child throws a ball inside the house hard enough to knock over some furniture.

He knows he's not supposed to throw the ball inside, so there's a punishment.

Is "taking the ball away for a week" an effective punishment for a child under 5, considering that they seem to have shorter attention spans? After an hour they'll probably forget they ever even had the ball (unless it was really important to them), so bringing it back after a week will be more like a reward (hey, remember this? You can have it back now) than a punishment..?

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up vote 11 down vote accepted

My 5 year-old remembers confiscated toys for a long time. If he asks about it, we remind him why it was taken away. If he doesn't ask about it for several weeks, we usually just give it away to goodwill.

Rather than just setting a time period, we put conditions on getting the toy back, so when he gets it back, the reward is justified. For throwing a ball in the house, for example, we would say he can have it back when he goes a day without throwing any toys. If a toy gets taken away because he was fighting over it, we say he can have it back when he goes a day without fighting over a toy.

When he was younger and his memory wasn't as good, we would remind him when we caught him breaking the condition: "Remember, you can't get your ball back until you stop throwing things in the house." We'd also confiscate the new toy he was throwing. Even a three year-old will eventually start to notice his toy collection dwindling.

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Yep - this is pretty much the way we went with all of ours, and they understood very quickly! –  Rory Alsop Oct 3 '12 at 13:10
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