I haven’t written directly about punishment in a while
so I thought it might be good to say a few words on the topic.
If you have been following my blog
you probably know that I am
significantly against punishment of any kind.
This includes consequences, removal of privileges and timeouts.
An Open Mind
If you are presently punishing your kids
in order to correct their behavior
then this article might be difficult for you to read.
I ask you to try and read it anyways,
try and read it without becoming
defensive or feeling attacked.
Take in the ideas and
think about them independently.
Think about them objectively
and draw your own conclusions.
There are many reasons for not punishing,
I’m going to briefly describe what I consider the top four
Punishment gives kids the message
that we love them conditionally
and not unconditionally.
We are telling them that we love them more
when they behave like this
and less when they behave like that.
While it may be true that we love our kids the same
whether we are punishing them or not,
in fact many people believe that
they are punishing their kids because they love them,
the fact remains that in their experience
when they are being punished
they are not feeling loved.
Therefore from their perspective
they are more worthy of love
when they meet the expectations
of the authority figures in their lives.
Love and Acceptance From An External Source
One of the effects of this is that
it puts the focus of self-love
and acceptance outside of us.
In other words, in order to feel worthy
of love and acceptance
we have to please other people.
When I think about sending
my daughter out into the world
with the strongest foundation possible,
this mindset seems in direct opposition to that.
I do not want her to spend her life
seeking acceptance from other people.
Punishment teaches kids that
the reason to do good is to avoid pain.
It does not teach the idea of
doing good for its own sake.
It does not teach the idea of
doing good to create the
best outcome for everyone.
It does not produce a mindset focused on
working towards mutual benefit.
In essence, doing good
to avoid pain for yourself
is a selfish motivation.
It also means that when there is
no threat of punishment
there is no reason to continue
doing the good thing.
Basically we are trying to get them to
behave better by making them feel worse.
The inherent contradiction in that idea seems so glaring to me.
Punishment erodes the bond of
trust and love between parent and child.
Every time we punish our children
they trust us a little bit less.
They believe in our love a little bit less.
They believe in our good intentions a little bit less.
Punishment produces the condition
in which kids are forced to lie to us.
They may not even know they are lying at times,
but this is the reaction that punishment forces upon them.
Our kids learn that they cannot simply be themselves
if they want to be loved and accepted by their parents.
This means they have to put on a false mask
so that they do not receive pain
at the hands of the people
who are supposed to love them unconditionally.
Sometimes I put myself in the mind of
a child looking at its parent.
“This being is supposed to be my support,
my foundation, the source of my very existence,
my inspiration and my protection.
And yet I can never be sure of
when they will also turn into my tormentor.”
This doesn’t only erode our kid’s sense of
love and trust with us,
but it erodes their relationship
with love and trust itself.
Punishment teaches kids how to treat others
when they have power over them.
The only reason a parent can punish their child
is because they have power over them.
We have economic,
over our children.
The way we use that power
demonstrates to them how to treat others.
I have often said that one of the
primary causes of bullying is
the model kids have for
how to treat others from their parents.
Punishment is saying:
“Because I have this power over you
I can make you feel bad
when you do not conform to my expectations.”
It is telling our kids that
there are appropriate times
for them to cause other people pain
in order to get their way.
It is teaching them that
they do not have to consider the feelings
of other people to be
as valid and important as their own.
Punishment is an empathy killer.
Punishment is a community killer.
True empathy comes from Love
not from Fear.
I actually know a guy who claims
he taught his two year old daughter empathy
by pulling her hair every time she pulled his hair.
He genuinely believes that she learned
to love and care for him more
because she knew the pain he was feeling
when she pulled his hair.
The real lesson there is,.
if somebody hurts you
the best way to deal with it
is to hurt them back.
This is not the mindset that I want for my child.
This is not the mindset that I want for the world!
A common question I often receive at this point in my description is
How will I get my kids to behave if I do not punish them?
This is a very reasonable and valid question/concern.
Parenting without punishment is possible.
Not only is it possible,
it is more pleasant for everyone concerned.
It is also dramatically more effective
in creating a harmonious and
cooperative household community.
Transitioning from Control to Communication
If you are interested in transitioning
from a punishment model relationship with your kids
to a cooperative, collaborative, communication
and reasoning based model of interaction with your kids
I can help.
I suggest reading through some of the articles
I have written over the past year on this blog.
Click on the parenting category link
on the top right of this page
and you will have all of the articles together.
There is a lot of good information
on how to work with your kids in a non-punitive way.
It can also be very useful to receive direct support.
I am presently working with
many families and helping them
make this difficult and yet rewarding transition.
If you’re interested in working with me
and experimenting with these ideas
please contact me and we can
discuss how we can work together.
Either way I lovingly suggest giving it a try.
It will be challenging at first.
Even if you can remove 10%
of your tendency to use consequences
as a means of altering behavior
you will see a profound effect
upon the emotional and mental state of your children,
on the relationship you have with them
and on the overall positive energy in your home.
If you can increase that percentage a little at a time
you can completely transition to a relationship and interaction
based on mutual love and respect
rather than power and control.
This is a beautiful achievement that
you will value all the years of your life.