Why You Shouldn’t Punish Your Children and What You Can Do Instead
When you get angry at your children for their misbehavior, the easiest way to “teach” them, is to use any kind of punishment — like sending them to their room, taking away their favorite toys, or even spanking them. Although it might seem to you that you’ve reached your goals and stopped bad behavior, psychologists believe that punishing only brings temporary results. Instead, they suggest using other effective ways of raising your kids that could help you in the long run.
We at Bright Side found out why you should never punish your children and how you can deal with them instead.
Why punishment is bad for you and your children:
1. It means that you’re overreacting.
Usually, you feel the urge to punish, when your child, consciously or unconsciously, hurts you with their actions. In this case, it’s very hard to stay calm, so you start striking back with your punishing methods in order to make them feel this pain too.
These outbursts of negative emotions affect both you and your child and may actually lead to some serious consequences, including physical injury.
2. It’s a lazy behavior.
Punishment is the easiest form of communication with your children — they do something that you don’t like and you do something that they don’t like in return, no negotiations and no explanations. This could be really tempting since it doesn’t take any effort from your side, but this is definitely not the right way of raising a happy and healthy person.
3. It stops your child from developing self-discipline.
The main goal of parenting is to raise a person who will be ready to make their own decisions based on their experience. But if you often punish your children and don’t tell them about the consequences of their actions, they won’t be able to understand what’s right and what’s wrong using their own mind in the future.
These children usually don’t have any self-discipline or sense of empathy because nobody taught them these essential things. They just know that there is a part of them that is undesirable or bad, and their parents don’t like it.
4. It doesn’t change your child’s behavior.
Children can’t learn when they feel afraid, disrespected, or rebellious. And that is exactly how they feel when you’re punishing them. So even if you might think that you’re teaching them proper behavior with your punishments, you’re actually sending one simple message to them instead — “you did something wrong and this is the consequence of behaving in a bad way.”
This message puts a child in an uncomfortable position when they don’t know how to figure out the right behavior on their own. Due to this, their negative emotions can get stifled and pop up later when the situation repeats itself.
5. It lowers your child’s self-esteem.
In most cases, children respond to punishment in the following way — “My parents don’t love me and there must be something wrong with me.” Even if you do not intend to make your child feel like this, your punishment does it anyway. It’s no wonder that this can damage the mental health of your offspring and leave them with serious psychological issues for the rest of their life.
6. It promotes fear.
Next time you go to punish your child, ask yourself a simple question — do you want them to be afraid of you? Most likely, your answer will be a “no.” The point is that punishment always creates a fear-based relationship. In this relationship, children become anxious as they worry about what their parents would do if they notice some inappropriate behavior.
Of course, your kids might behave like angels when you’re around, but simply out of fear and not because they feel like it or have truly understood their previous mistakes. Behind your back, they will certainly act the same.
7. It ruins your relationship.
Punishment simply doesn’t belong in a loving relationship. On the contrary, it creates an infinite wall between you and your children. This wall of misunderstanding and hidden aggressiveness makes both sides unhappy and dissatisfied with their family roles.
Consequently, punishment reduces your effectiveness as a parent. So, when your children get older, they won’t turn to you and seek advice or help. Instead, they will look for love in other places, some of which might turn out to be wrong.
8. It invites rebellion.
Punishment can also be ineffective because it leads to the wrong emotions. When your child does something bad, you’d certainly prefer that they feel guilty about their actions and want to change their behavior for the better. But, despite your hopes, they feel resentful and sometimes start behaving even worse than before.
The reason of this is quite simple — an authoritarian parenting style with frequent punishments, just makes them want to hurt you and think more horrible thoughts about how not to get caught next time.
9. It shows that power can solve anything.
In the eyes of your kids, you are the greatest source of power and authority. So if you abuse your physical and mental strength over them to enforce your punishments, they will think that this is okay and that this is how the world should be spinning.
This behavior provides a perfect recipe for bullying — in their turn, your children might also tend to show their power over those who are weaker or inferior to them, as well as think that they can get whatever they want by using their strength.
What you can do instead of punishment:
- Think strategically. If you know that your kid is prone to acting out while you’re buying groceries, try to plan the things ahead — bring some snacks to distract their attention or redirect them with some toys.
- Show them your love. Sometimes, when your child is throwing a tantrum, all you need to do is say to them, “I could really use a hug right now.” In this case, your child will probably forget about the reason for their misbehavior and rush to show how much they love you.
- Use short time-outs. The golden rule here is one minute for each year of your child’s age — for example, a 3-year-old would get 3 minutes in a time-out. This short period of time will help you both to cool down and figure out how to handle things better.
- Find out the reasons for their misbehavior. Just talk to your kids when they’re in a good mood and ask them why they behave in that particular way. There could be a good reason for their behavior, and, most likely, your children will be ready to share it with you, but only if you’re ready to listen to them.
- Set the rules together. Next time you’re going to argue about the chores your child forgot to do again, don’t behave like an authoritarian parent who always stands their ground. Instead, let your kids establish the rules themselves. They could make their own chore chart or set their limits on how much TV they watch every day. This would help them learn self-discipline in a better way.
- Teach them to apologize. When your child is acting out, it’s very easy to lose your temper and use some hard words with them. But if you feel that you went too far when scolding them, just take a deep breath in and say that you’ve made a mistake and you’re sorry. Showing your kids that everyone makes mistakes and teaching them to apologize may be the most important example of all.
- Talk to them about taking responsibility for their actions. Punishing your child for accidentally spilling a glass of milk won’t be the best way to raise them. But showing them that they should take responsibility for their actions and help clean the mess up certainly will be.
Do you think it’s appropriate to punish children? What ways do you usually use when teaching your kids right from wrong? Please share your thoughts in the comments!