Why Punishing Your Child Is Bad And What To Do Instead

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When a child persistently misbehaves, the first reaction of a parent will be to punish him. “I’m going to teach you a lesson!” yells Dad, and the child is smacked, given a time out or told he can’t watch TV for a week.

Sound familiar? Maybe so, but just because everybody does it, doesn’t mean it’s the best approach.

How would you deal with misbehaviour?

How would you deal with misbehaviour?

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34 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Maddie Moo on 11 September, 2009 at 9:02 am

    I think appropriate punishment is good.Of course,carers should explain to children why their behaviours are zero tolerance.Children will learn what is ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ in their life.If just by warning,I don’t think they bother.They should learn from mistake.Look at nowadays,no punishment upbringings,children are more vulnerable and show no respect to everyone.

    Reply

    • That’s true, children do learn by trying everything out and testing the limits. Which is why a lot of times carers will lose their patience and just punish without proper communication.

      Appropriate punishment is also a bit subjective. For example hitting a child, how hard is too hard or soft?

      Reply

  2. Posted by p a t t on 14 September, 2009 at 6:21 am

    Discipline and not punishment is what’s needed

    The difference is in the concept…

    I agree with maddie moo that having this concept of just explaining and explaining to a child why he had behaved badly is sometimes not enough

    Especially if you say “XX upsets me”

    And the kid goes “So what?”

    Reply

    • It’s all fine in theory, but in practice, I find that most adults (parents and carers alike) just don’t communicate properly with children.

      Reply

      • Posted by p a t t on 15 September, 2009 at 2:17 am

        i so agree

        but does that mean that if you explain properly, and ensure that he understands why you are goign to cane your kid – then its ok to cane your kid?

        e.g. “It upsets me to see your grades suffer because of lack of effort – you are going to get whacked because you didn’t put any effort in!”

        then whack whack whack

        Reply

  3. i’m going to give it a try…i believe it will work for me and bb.

    Reply

    • Hi Mumzzy, thanks, always supportive of my posts. :)

      Your bb may be a bit too young to intentionally offer you challenging behaviour right now, but I’m sure in a few months time she’ll be more than ready to test the limits. :)

      Reply

  4. Good stuff, Mark. Food for thought.

    I didn’t enjoy being hit, so I suppose I shouldn’t support physical punishment either.

    Patt’s example cracked me up: you’re naughty coz you’ve done this so you get whack whack whack. Question is, does it work?

    Thinking back, as I was growing up, I used to know the consequences, and did it anyway because I wanted to do it. I called it being brave and responsible for your actions. Geez, I sure hope my boy doesn’t grow up to be just like me!

    If smacking is bad, what about other non-physical punishments eg time out, stand in the corner? Or do children see all punishments the same way, coz they all upset them the same say?

    Reply

  5. Fully agree with your article… Punishment is totally not useful to my son, too! If I try to scold or punish him, he’ll behaves nottier.. If I try to tell him the reason why he cannot do that, surprisingly, he follow my way! ;)

    Reply

  6. Hehe, yes, Patt’s example is very amusing. :)

    Amy, I’m sure you’re not referring to when you were around 2 years of age, otherwise you have really really good memory. :)
    The earlier we can imprint good behaviour in children during their developmental phase, the better, and they will be less need later on for disciplining.

    Reply

  7. Maybe I’m just soft, but I don’t like the idea of physical punishment, even with proper communication.

    Besides discussing punishment being bad for children, did you know that even rewarding and praise can supposedly bad for children?

    http://www.naturalchild.org/robin_grille/rewards_praise.html

    Reply

  8. Posted by p a t t on 15 September, 2009 at 7:40 am

    gosh – one day they r just goign to tell you not to talk to your kids at all – cos generally, parents are just such bad examples of human beings – bad communication, bad temper etc etc

    Reply

  9. Now now, adults get it right sometimes too. :)

    Reply

  10. Although I am very agreed to your point that we shall not simply punish our kids. But it happen that the kids really get on your nerve and you are sick on her behavior and end up with the punishment .

    For the last 2 weeks, I am so sick to my 4 years old daughter who keeps crying for my attention and love as well we guess she might be very jealous of her little sister! I have can her quite badly as I really can’t control my emotional! What will you suggest on my case to get things back to the track?

    Reply

  11. Hi JC,

    Don’t give up! Absolutely everybody falls off track now and then.

    If your 4 year old has only been jealous for 2 weeks, you might be considered lucky. :) How old is her little sister?

    Here’s a good article from About.com about dealing with jealous siblings. (I take it jealousy is your main issue, and not attention seeking?).

    http://bit.ly/J4Y19

    I particularly agree with the advice on “Watch Your Words” and “Hover” . Give it a try and some time to see if you get results.

    Hope this helps!

    Reply

  12. Posted by Shirley on 2 October, 2009 at 3:26 am

    Totally agreed….My girl is 2 1/2 years old now and i have not punished her for any wrong doing. Whenever she does something wrong, and when i ask her who did it, she’ll admit it. Then I’ll just explain to her why it is wrong. All you need is more patient. I love being a mom…

    Reply

  13. Hi Shirley, thanks for your input!

    Sounds like you did a great job instilling self-discipline in your little one, with your 2 key ingredients being love and patience. :)

    Reply

  14. Posted by Vincent Ng on 4 October, 2009 at 8:46 am

    As a temporary primary school teacher, I observe that overall there are two group of children. One group of children will have positive reaction if you do not punish, put your love and efforts on teaching and giving them chance to learn freely. They can learn in peaceful way.
    Another type of chilren is type of “bully”. They always tend to make the things worse. They seen did not not like the peaceful environment. They like to create noise. If they are left not punished and left freely, the condition became worse. How to solve the problem for the second group of children?
    Thanks can share some useful advice from you.

    Reply

  15. Hi Vincent!

    It’s hard to write enough in this little comment box, so I’ll recommend you a site with some great tips:
    http://newteachersupport.suite101.com/article.cfm/zip_those_lips

    Notice that only one of those tips involves punishment. :)

    I particularly like the 3rd suggestion. Adding on that, any kind of noise monitor would work. You could make it a class activity to make your own noise monitor, and after that, it’s very useful to let the kids operate it themselves.

    The 5th suggestion is also important, i.e. don’t just raise your voice and try to be louder than the children!

    Good luck! Give the methods some time, and let me know how things work out.

    Reply

  16. Posted by jessica hazel on 21 October, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    i think hitting a child is bad. cuz ehrn they go to school 4 the 1st time there r going 2 think hiotting it ok. and they might hit one of the kids in th class or the could hit the theacher. that woyuld not be good. so u should not hit your child. if they do something bad. just put them in time out and talk to them about what they did what was bad.

    Reply

    • Hi Jessica!

      Yes, that’s very true. Besides causing a lot of unhappiness for kids, being hit also teaches them to hit others. If only more adults would be willing to admit that.

      Reply

  17. You should quote the references in your article, to be fair to the original authors. The list of to-do items comes from Faber & Mazlish’s book, “How to talk so kids will listen & listen to kids will talk”. Good article otherwise!

    Reply

  18. Posted by steve on 31 October, 2011 at 1:14 am

    I agree to an extent. There is a line to be crossed when the child refuses all. Negotiating does not work at all with a child that gives in on his half of the bargain. Specially when the child is almost as large as you. Punishment is as real as it gets. Im not talking just spanking and the such, any punishment. In real life if you break the rules you get punished. It wouldnt work if billy bob beats his wife and we say “im so disappointed in you” not realistic! Consiquence is the only approach.

    Reply

  19. Posted by Michelle on 5 September, 2012 at 2:48 am

    My girls are just acting out horribly lately and I’ve turned to this discussion board instead of beating their brains out. I have two of my own and a step daughter and all of them are acting ridiculous! I am so frustrated, I’ve stopped spanking and started punishing and although punishing worked, it stopped just as fast. I am at wits end and am now thinking of sending them away? maybe that will help them get a better perspective on how good they have it here, because we all know “there’s no place like home” right? I guess I’ll have to stick with punishment for now until I can set it up for them to go! I just needed to get this off my chest.
    Michelle

    Reply

    • How old are your girls Michelle?

      It sounds like you need a rightfully deserved break. Some time for yourself would be good, but I hope you’re not referring to something permanent when you say ‘sending them away’.

      Reply

  20. Posted by Gisselle on 12 October, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    I have a 8 year old and she is sooo bad, i get notes from her teacher every day that she does something wrong, she has no respect for me yells answer back at, but she also know whats my soft spots i have tried everything her behavior keeps getting worts, what should i do? im a single mom and this is soo hard

    Reply

  21. Posted by bing on 6 December, 2012 at 2:47 am

    yes i agree that punishing a child is good.because the child will never do the same mistakes he/she had done,they will always tell themselves “i should not do that again,so that my parents will not punish me again”…! children can always make mistakes anyway.but to tell you frankly punishing is a good discipline to a naughty child.

    Reply

  22. Posted by lightning on 6 December, 2012 at 2:52 am

    thats what i do.

    Reply

  23. Posted by tyrse mitchell on 31 January, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    i think tht puishment should be given in a ryt way n it should nt be over done

    Reply

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