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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Blanco

Punishment: Why it is not Effective

Updated: Jan 23, 2022

Punishment promotes an education based on fear and prevents learning. There are more effective ways to help children.

Getting children to change their behaviour is not always easy. People use punishment as a tool to stop it. At some point, if you punish your child you will see the behaviour stop. However, it is not effective in the long term. If we don't respond to their needs and emotions, we will sabotage the healthy emotional development we want for them.

Perfection doesn't exist. All parents are doing their best for their children. However, many have been given the wrong information about how to help their child. This counterproductive and destructive advice leads parents to struggle with their parenting and instincts. Here are some examples:

'How will he learn if you don't let him cry?'

'You have to control the situation and push your child. Next time ignore her and use the threat one, two, three...'

'Distract your child, she seems upset.'

'He is not sad. He is just manipulating you.'

'If your kid is screaming in the shopping centre, tell her you are going out and walk away. She will follow you!'

Providing a loving, judgment-free household is a gift to parents and children.

Here some differences between the use of punishment and positive strategies:


  • Is fear-based education.

  • Is a culture of threat.

  • Gives a reward for unwanted behaviour.

  • Makes someone fear consequences.

  • Causes suffering as a result of mistakes.

  • Causes anger towards parents or carers.

  • Creates long-term health consequences.

Positive strategies...

  • Reinforce positive behaviour.

  • Welcome emotions.

  • Allow children to learn from their mistakes.

  • Provide them with the opportunity to make better choices in the future.

  • Make parents and carers role models.

  • Are reasonable, respectful and effective.

What to do instead

There are two approaches: reactive and proactive. The reactive approach consists of reacting when problems occur instead of doing something to prevent them. With a proactive approach, you are able to create or control a situation by causing something to happen. It is supportive and offers consistency. Learning how to avoid the innapropriate behaviour is easy when you know how to read it.

The proactive approach is a positive discipline that allows you to manage the environment, have appropriate expectations and respect the learning process. It also provides you with the opportunity to learn and to take into account every angle of the situation.

Positive strategies must be given in a warm, respectful and loving environment.

Communication is an essential building block of a strong relationship.

The more positive attention you give people, the more they will respond.

  • Talk to your child about the desirable behaviour and comment approvingly, such as:

'Wow! I am so proud of you. You were working so hard on the project.'

'Well done Alice! You were waiting so nicely when I was talking to your Aunt. That was so patient of you!'

  • When you make requests use a firm, respectful and positive tone. Express what you want to happen clearly. After that, allow time for your child to process the demand.

  • Listen to your child. If they feel upset or sad, show interest and empathy, for example:

'I know you were really looking forward to going bowling, I understand you are so disappointed it was cancelled.'

Welcome your child's emotions and teach them a healthy way of expressing them:

'Is there another way to express your anger?'

  • Every time your child complies, praise them.

We need to promote an environment where children behave well because they understand the impact of their action, as an internal motivation, avoiding the fear of punishment. It is more effective if we show them the relationship between their actions and what happens as a result of it.

All change comes one step at a time! Each moment is a new chance.


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