Parenting children

The Myth of Punishment

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Many parenting gurus today claim punishment is off-limits. Punishment, they say, is unacceptable. They justify themselves by arguing that punishment-usually yelling, or hitting, cause “blame, shame, or pain,” in the child, and should therefore be assiduously avoided.

It is true that yelling and hitting cause all of these things. And the truth is, even if they didn’t cause some form of pain to the child, they would still be ineffective, since generally a parent who engages in these behaviors is out of control. A parent who is out of control, is by definition going to be ineffective in disciplining their child. When your child misbehaves, your reaction shouldn’t be a spur of the moment knee kick in the dark. It should be a well-thought out response based on your family’s values, your child’s personality and maturity level, and the act itself.

But one thing that the parenting gurus fail to take into account is that even when you tell your child you are unhappy with their behavior, the child experiences pain. Even if you say to them, "I'm really disappointed you did that," they'll still feel shame.

The truth is, the fact that they feel a little shame, or some emotional pain, is a good thing. Using natural and logical consequences may be effective, but the real reason they work is because your child loves you, and knows that you love him. His surety of your love is the single most potent factor in wanting to change for the better.

So when you tell your child how saddened you are by their behavior, because you know they can do better, they’re going to feel a little bad about it. Of course, different children will show different responses depending on their personality: some will hang their heads down, others will look off into the distance, and some will break down crying no matter how nicely you say it.

That’s okay. They feel that way because they care what you think of them, and they want your love and respect. They're sorry that they've done something to lose it, even temporarily, and if you have a good relationship with your child, they’ll do just about anything to get your respect back.

The problem becomes when you have a poor relationship with your child. Perhaps you haven’t invested time in raising your child, finding it easier to be busy with work, hobbies, or just “stuff.” Maybe you have a hard time accepting who your child is, and your child knows it. It could be you’ve done everything you can for your child, assuming that she realizes it was all for her. She may not realize it.

If you don’t spend any time with your child-just because they are who they are-or if you don’t take the time to show day to day how much you care about them, then don’t assume they know you love them. And when you don’t have a good relationship with your child, then the shame or the pain cause the exact opposite reaction: rebellion, power struggles, and anger.

In their eyes, they’ve already lost your love, so why should they change?

As a parent, your ultimate goal is to ensure that your children can face life’s challenges without the expectation of positive or negative consequences. If you have a good relationship, you won’t need to use shame or pain against your child. If you don’t have a good relationship…then get working on it.

Agree or disagree?  Tell me what you think-leave your comment below.

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