As parents we must ask ourselves why we think punishment is a valid way to teach children how to grow into responsible adults. What does punishment foster in a child? If punishment really worked would you ever have to use it more than once? What does punishment, especially spanking do to a child’s self esteem? And, if you don’t punish, what do you do instead?
Punishment instills fear and resentment. It teaches children to find ways to avoid being punished instilling a response of resistance and defiance. It often involves threats and humiliation. Parents often take away things as punishment that have nothing to do with what the child did wrong. And, for a big person to hit a little person is never an option. All hitting does is provide a release for the adult and instill fear in the child.
But, you say. We must have some parenting strategy or parenting technique to use to control our child’s behavior. Children need guidance but not control. Rewards and bribes are to be avoided as well. Parents do not need to bribe their children to be good. Children naturally want to be good. It is an important aspect of belonging in the family. Offering rewards and bribes is a sign of distrust by the parents and is discouraging.
Discipline teaches children self-discipline. The goal of discipline is to help your child learn to be responsible and learn how to make choices. Letting a child experience the consequences of his choices lets him learn how to be accountable for his actions. A child learns over time to look inside to make a choice rather to what they will get from outside themselves. As parents, what you want to do is stimulate and motivate cooperation. This is done by using natural and logical consequences as the way to discipline your child. Using this approach shows respect for your child, consequences match the misbehavior, they are imposed for bad choices not bad kids, they are applied in the present not for past mistakes, they are done in the spirit of friendliness not anger, they allow choice.
Setting limits is the first step to avoiding punishment. Letting the child know in advance what their choices are and what are the consequences will be is the starting point. When offering choices they must be choices that the parent will accept. For example, saying to your young child you may take your bath now or after dinner gives her the choice of when to take a bath not whether she will take one or not. Choices are not offered in such a way that the child can say no. So, in this example, saying do you want to take a bath would not be a choice and it leaves the option for the child to say no and then what do you do?
Telling your teen, he can go visit his friend after he does his homework gives him a choice. He can choose not to do his homework but then he cannot go out. When there is a consequence implied by the choice the consequence must be enforced. That way the teen learns that you mean what you say and that you are firm in your decisions. Learn more about implementing a non-punishment style of parenting.