As parents, then it follows that if we really want our children to behave we need to help shape and specify what way that is. One could argue that punishing a child is specifying the way. Children should simply follow what we tell them, and punishment will reinforce this. Now if specifying their behavior would be so easy as one command, one punishment, deal done, then for one, we would be grossly overlooking the fact that children are intelligent, capable and complex individuals, not drones that simply need programming.
Secondly, If children could just learn with one simple command, followed by punishment for non compliance, we wouldn’t be researching the inner workings of child development, long term impact of violence and aggression, the role of resilience, communication, attachment and so the list goes on and on… and it would bring to question why is generation after generation turning to parenting books, educators and experts for help to shape our childrens behaviour.
Choosing physical punishment, threats and pain as a means to make children behave might bring a short term sense of accomplishment, but at a big cost. In the grand scheme of things, to punish a child with a spanking, or incessant yelling it is simply demonstrating lack of control, aggression and disrespect. It is showing in essence exactly how society does NOT want them to behave.
Punishment does not teach respect: Punishment can make a child feel disrespected and confused. If we yell at a child and threaten to punish them as a means to get what we want, we cannot expect them to learn how to ask for what they need in a respectful way.
Aggression begets aggression: When we hit , strike, smack, swat a child we are showing them exactly how to use physical aggression to get their way. The shock value might temporarily work for some, yet have you ever seen a parent smack a childs hand and tell them “don’t hit your friend” and not too much later they hit again?
Punishment does not teach self-control: When a parent loses it on a child, yelling, hitting, spanking, yanking at it, they are not modeling how to effectively overcome stressful emotions. As stressful situations and highly charged emotions are pretty much a given in this parenting gig modeling is key. From toddlers to teens alike, making a child "shut up" their emotions by isolating them or hurting them will not help them overcome, process or learn. Watching us on the other hand, will.
Keeping cool, choosing words over confrontation, seeking alternatives over punishment, peace over violence: it can be difficult, it can take a lot of practice, it is a process. But that’s just it, parenting just like growing up and learning to behave, is a process.
What are you doing to model the behavior you wish to see in your child?
Next week on positive parenting connection I will be exploring the question: "If not punishment, then what?"
Peace & Be Well,