Negative Punishment Examples and Scenarios

, Staff Writer
Updated January 31, 2020
Girl handing over her phone
    Girl handing over her phone
    SDI Productions / iStock / Getty Images Plus
    Used under Getty Images license

Nobody ever wants their stuff taken away. That is the main concept behind negative punishment. Using negative punishment example scenarios, gain an understanding of the concept and its effectiveness. Then, go on to explore the difference between positive and negative punishment.

Exploring Negative Punishment

The use of punishment is one way to deter or eliminate undesired behavior. In the case of negative punishment, it is where you take away something positive to decrease an undesirable or bad behavior. Basically, to punish bad behavior, something you like is taken away. This could be your car, job, toy or even your freedom.

When thinking of negative punishment, you might think of B.F. Skinner and his experiments with animals on operant conditioning. However, negative punishment examples in real life happen all the time in work, school, home and even the grocery store.


Examples of Negative Punishment

When it comes to the real world, negative punishments are found everywhere. It’s one way that employers, parents, teachers and even the government try to make sure that people don’t break the rules. Dive into some fun and unique negative punishment examples in real life.

Missing Curfew

A teenager has a curfew of 10 p.m. She misses her curfew by 10 minutes. Her parents take away the Bluetooth speaker in her room for three days.

In this instance, the teen’s parents are taking away her speaker (something she values and enjoys) as punishment for missing curfew. By taking away her speaker, they hope that the teen will not miss curfew again.

Answering the Phone in School

A teen answers his phone in the classroom, interrupting the teacher. The teacher takes away his phone for the rest of the day.

Here, the teacher is hoping that by taking away the phone (positive item) as punishment, the teenager will not answer his phone in class again. This is because they do not want the repeat punishment of losing their phone.


Not Completing Work

At a customer service center, a worker isn’t answering enough phone calls. The boss calls the worker into his office and demotes his pay for his bad performance.

By taking away some of the workers' pay (negative punishment), the employer is hoping that the employee will improve their work performance. If it doesn’t, the employer might try another form of negative punishment, like firing.

Breaking the Law

A drunk driver is pulled over by the police. After several sobriety tests, the police officers arrest the man and impound his car for breaking the law against drinking and driving.

Governments provide negative punishments when you break the laws. The impounding of the car is a negative punishment for the driver, because they lose the positive privilege of having the car. This will be even worse, because the driver will also have to pay fees to get their car back (losing money).


Fighting With Siblings

Two sisters are fighting over playing a video game. Because they are fighting over the game, their mother takes the game away for the rest of the week.

To curb the undesirable behavior of fighting, the mother is taking away the video game. By taking it away, the sisters might think next time about sharing rather than fighting over it.

Throwing a Tantrum

A toddler is having a tantrum at a supermarket. The mother of the toddler takes away his blanket (that he loves) until he stops his tantrum.

The removal of the blanket is the negative punishment for the tantrum. If this is done each time, the toddler will learn that tantrums mean his blanket gets taken away. This might lead to fewer tantrums in the future.


Stealing Work Supplies

A worker is caught stealing supplies from her workplace. The workplace has a zero tolerance for employee stealing. After being caught, she is fired from her job.

The employer is taking away the job (a desirable thing) for being caught stealing (behavior that needs modification). This is an example of negative punishment, because the worker will no longer have money to live and must find a new job. This will also encourage the worker not to steal in the future.

Refusing To Do Chores

A brother and sister are not doing their chores when they come home from school. Fed up, a mother resets the Wi-Fi password so the children can no longer access the Internet.

The mother is attempting to punish the children for not doing their chores by taking away their online privileges. In the future, the children know that if they don’t do their chores, they will lose access to the Internet.


Swearing in School

A high school senior swears in school and is sent home with a note. His parents take away his car keys for one week and make him ride the bus to school.

The poor choice of swearing in school is punished through revoking the teen’s independence by taking his car keys. This will make the young man think about swearing in school again and hopefully curb the behavior.

Growling Dog

A dog growls every time someone approaches his food bowl. His owner takes away his food bowl every time he growls.

Removal of the food is something that the dog doesn’t want. Therefore, the dog will stop growling when someone approaches his food bowl because he wants to keep his food.

Effectiveness of Negative Punishment

Negative punishment can be very effective in reducing bad or unwanted behaviors. This is because it makes a person (or animal) start to associate the loss of something positive (like their car or video game) with the negative behavior (swearing or missing curfew).

However, you must be consistent in providing the negative punishment every time it happens. The negative punishment must also be doled out immediately after the bad behavior. Being consistent is especially important for the strategy to be effective.

Negative Punishment vs. Positive Punishment

When it comes to punishment, it is a numbers game. During negative punishment, the “negative” part refers to removing or taking away something good. But when it comes to positive punishment, the “positive” part describes the fact that you are adding something bad.

As an example of positive punishment, a teenager who did not do their dishes now has to not only do the dishes, but also sweep the floor. This positive punishment is adding a negative consequence to reduce an undesired behavior.

Punishment and Behaviors

When it comes to behavior modification, punishment is a very effective tool to help your child, student, worker or even pet to learn to behave themselves. Now that you’ve explored negative punishments, you might want to delve into the complicated world of positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement, too. And remember it’s all about behavior!