Research has shown time and again that punishment is ineffective when parenting. Find out why punishment doesn't work and what to do instead. These parenting techniques are the best way to raise well behaved, moral children. Authoritarian versus authoritative parenting, developmental psychology, parenting styles, positive parenting tips, gentle parenting strategies, moral reasoning, internal locus of control.

Why Punishment is Ineffective & What to do Instead

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Most of us were raised by a generation who experienced corporal punishment at home and at school. For instance, my dad remembers being pulled out of class (he probably deserved that part of it). The priest, who was about to discipline him, asked him to stand one inch from a brick wall. After being chastised, my dad was slammed backward, finalizing his penance.

Thankfully, corporal punishment is no longer used in schools and has vastly departed from households. While this is most certainly a good thing, many of us were still raised using punishment. As such, it can be difficult to understand why punishment is ineffective. It’s part of our personal history. And, it’s almost instinctive, at times, to practice what we’ve experienced when we were children ourselves. We want what’s best for our children. We want to be good parents. Specifically, no one wants to raise entitled, ill-behaved children. As such, we want to extinguish our children’s bad behaviour. And as such, we default to punishment. The problem is that countless research studies have shown that punishment is ineffective in teaching children and shaping their behaviour.

 

Why Research Says Punishment is Ineffective

When we punish children, we typically see the behaviour stop. As a result, we conclude that it’s worked. It makes sense. We achieved our desired outcome temporarily so all seems well. Typically, we are also angry that our children have made a bad choice. When we yell, inflict strict punishment, such as sending them to their rooms for an indefinite period of time or even spank, our kids start crying. Their tears are an indication they feel remorse. We think we’ve done a good job because they now understand they were bad.

The actual impact on our children is much different than our perceptions, though. Extensive behavioural studies have shown that punishment can result in an increase in obedience, but does not actually accomplish internalised moral reasoning. What most of us want are children who do the right thing whether we are with them or not. Punishment only results in a fear of being punished. This “…is not an effective deterrent unless there is a real chance of being caught.” Additionally, when a child feels ignored, punishment can act as a reward for poor behaviour. Click here to read more.

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Research has shown time and again that punishment is ineffective when parenting. Find out why punishment doesn't work and what to do instead. These parenting techniques are the best way to raise well behaved, moral children. Authoritarian versus authoritative parenting, developmental psychology, parenting styles, positive parenting tips, gentle parenting strategies, moral reasoning, internal locus of control.

 

Strict Parenting Versus Empathetic Parenting

The main goal of parenting is to increase self-regulation. Mainly, we want to raise our children to act well in any situation regardless of the fear of consequence. Countless studies have examined the long-term impact of different parenting styles on children. They have found that children raised in strict, or authoritarian households are more likely to lack self-discipline when compared to children with empathetic or authoritative parents. The reason is that punitive discipline fails to adequately teach the child. The child learns there is a part of me that is undesirable or is bad. That’s it. Furthermore, children learn that power wins over reasoning. Because authoritarian parenting centres on obedience instead of discussion, children become less likely to understand emotion and reasoning. They also become more prone to anxiety, rebellion, and depression. For more information, click here.

 

Strict Punishment is Ineffective, What Should we to do Instead?

There are effective ways to discipline without using authoritarian forms of punishment. Here are some wonderful ways to teach your child when they’ve made a poor choice.

  • Get down to their level, hold their hands, and wait for their undivided attention. Ask them why they misbehaved. Acknowledge their feelings. Talk about what is expected of them and how they can do better.
  • Remove them from the situation but go with them. This is basically an adaptation on a timeout where you are there to help calm them down and then coach them through where they went wrong.
  • Have the child sit to the side of a social interaction (if you can’t leave the room with them). Talk them through their emotions as they sit to the side. Reconnect with them once calm and talk it out.
  • Take suspend privileges. At a very young age, children develop a form of currency. There are things they absolutely love and feel like they cannot live without – certain toys, a TV show, dessert. Taking these items away, if only temporarily can act as a wonderful incentive for a child to make amends. Read more here.
  • Use specific praise to shape their behaviour. Positive reinforcement is the best tactic when trying to get the most out of yours child. While saying “Good job,” is good, using these examples have so much  more impact.
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No matter what form of discipline you choose or even if you end up defaulting to punishment, the key to effective parenting is connecting with your child. When disciplining, connection is paramount. They must feel understood in order to understand. Without this piece, the opportunity to learn from their mistakes is lost.

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12 thoughts on “Why Punishment is Ineffective & What to do Instead

  1. These are great tips. Connecting with our children is so very important and after reading this I understand now how important it is to stay connected when we want them to learn from their mistakes.

  2. I totally agree with this. In fact, I feel like when I try to punish my daughter, it backfires and she acts out even more. However, when I remain calm and get down to her level, as you say, she seems to really listen to me and respond. It’s not always easy to parent like this, because I was definitely punished as a kid, so sadly it’s what I know. So I feel basically feel like I’m changing my instincts. Great post! You’re a great mom 🙂

  3. Really good strategies and suggestions, I find teaching with love helps so much more than a time out. But can I ask a question, isn’t taking away something they love a form of punishment? Or is that my old world perception!?

    1. That’s a great question. It really is a form of punishment. The differentiation would be that they can earn their lost privilege back so there is a process and an outcome whereas other forms of punishment are simply punitive.

  4. Great suggestions!!! I need to send this to my hubby lol. He was raised completely opposite as me where he got strict punishments for just about everything in life and sometimes he tries to punish my daughter for the littlest of things. Drives me insane since I really don’t think that’s the route to go with kids, especially little ones who don’t know they are doing something wrong half the time. I feel
    Talking to kids and explaining why those actions were wrong works so much better than just yelling and punishing without a full explanation…

    1. I’m with CourtneyLynne here! My husband and I were raised differently so it has been a challenge to guide him toward the world of empathetic parenting. He still looks at it as coddling but I find my 4 yr old to be developing amazing contentiousness lately and understand that it’s a process – no one is perfect!

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