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Punishment For Children

by Anurag


Many a times I have resorted to punishment (read as beating my child) either for misbehaviour or for being adamant. And after this act, I feel very bad about myself for having resorted to this on a child who is just 6 yrs old. But then discipline is also equally important.

I need help to understand - is it right to beat children when necessary or is there an alternative way of handling this? And if there is how to regain the composure to apply this before resorting to hitting the child.

Comments for Punishment For Children

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Parenting Discipline - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

Hi Anurag,
I have to say I am totally against beating children for any reason.

You have most likely been raised in a very traditional family yourself where your parents used authoritarian parenting style as their way of raising you.

This style uses fear and punishment to instil values into children, however it does not help children to be independent thinkers or good problem solvers.

You have to trust in yourself when you feel bad when you have beaten your child. This is telling you that inside you know it is not right. And congratulations for breaking the pattern and asking questions to find better ways to parent.

Kids don't misbehave just to annoy us or make us mad, though they do learn to get attention by acting up if their needs are not being met.

As Parents we want our children to cooperate and do what we ask, but we forget that our demands and needs to a child are not more important. A child's needs are just as important, and when they are engrossed in play or their energy is in doing something else, they don't see why our demands are necessary. As a parent we hold the bigger picture, the need for mealtimes, getting ready for school, bed time etc. But we can work together with our children instead of forcing our demands on them.

Misbehaving Children - Different Strategies For Parenting Discipline

There are quite a few pages on this site about misbehaving-children with ideas to look at parenting discipline differently.

I don't generally recommend punishment for children - and certainly not physical punishment. Punishment just creates guilt and fear and has no lasting purpose. What we want is for our children to learn to understand the consequences of their behaviour and be self directed to make amends.

Can you expect that of a six year old? No. A child's brain does not function the way an adult's does. They are not mini adults and we should not expect them to be. Growing up is a process of learning and mastering different tasks, developing abilities, learning to control emotions and reacting appropriately. We make LOTS of mistakes when we are learning something new, and that is a good thing when we use that to find a better way.

Part Two Follows . . .

Parenting Discipline - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

When our children see us loose control and hit them, they are simply learning to use violence to solve problems. And particularly when we use punishment for children in anger we run the risk of really loosing control and badly hurting our children.

I know you love your child and want what is best for them. It sounds like there are times when you loose control in frustration and then use physical means to force your child to behave. It would be fantastic for your child as well as for you to learn to get control of your reactions. When we are angry, we don't behave rationally or fairly, and our kids need to learn this too. It is actually pathways in the brain that have to grow for us to move from reaction to being rational. And it takes time and is not always easy.

Angry Parents - Strategies

You need some strategies to call a halt when you feel yourself getting mad. If your child sees you stop and take some deep breaths or go outside and yell instead of hitting, he/she will learn some really good skills. If you can, say you are taking time out - "I'm getting really mad right now so I am going to go outside until I am calmer"

You can get your child to help - include him/her in solving the problem - "We are both getting mad at each other and it is not helping, let's take some deep breaths and count to ten"

If you find you frequently loose control or feel angry a lot of the time you might want to have a look at our page for angry parents. You might find some ideas there that will be helpful, and there is a recommended anger management program that is really useful.

Parenting is not easy, and parents are often working as well as parenting and come home tired and stressed and then have to deal with everything at home. We must see parenting as THE MOST IMPORTANT JOB that we do. Our children are the future and we want them to happy, productive, caring people that can solve
problems and overcome challenges. So we have to teach them the skills to think creatively, to look at life's challenges as opportunities to create something new or a problem to be solved.

Part Three Follows . . .

Parenting Discipline - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

Yes we do need to help them learn to manage their time, to be respectful of others and to cooperate and do their share in the house. But that all takes time and practice and the best way they learn is by our example. Not punishment, but positive parenting discipline by getting their agreement.

Help Them Make Amends Rather Than Punishing

When our kids make a mistake, help them to find a way to fix it up, or make amends. If they have hurt someone's feelings, what can they do to make someone feel good? If they have broken something, or spilled something, they can clean it up, if they have been late for school, how can we help them manage time better so it is not a pattern.

Engage your child, and your own inner child, as problem solvers, on a mission to find better ways to get things done. The more we use our power as parents to force our kids to do something, the more we are hindering their learning to think for themselves.

Importance Of Positive Interaction

Most importantly, you need to create lots and lots of opportunities to have fun with your child. Kids learn through play, and we bond with our kids when we have fun with them.

Parenting is not just about clean clothes and meals on the table. Kids need lots and LOTS of experiences with us, playing, reading, puzzles, exploring nature, helping us cook, learning about other people. The more you do things with your child, the stronger your relationship with be, and the less he/she will need to act up to get attention. Negative attention is better than none, and most kids who constantly misbehave, simply need your attention. So create lots of opportunity to do things together.

Get Kids To Listen - Negotiate

The other thing that drives parents crazy - is kids don't seem to listen to do what they are told right away. So find a way to work around that. We think our demands are more important than what they are doing. Sometimes it is, but we can find ways to work WITH our children rather than using force. Most kids need much more time to be ready to transition to the next activity.
Particularly if they are engrossed in a game, what motivation is there to pick up their toys?

Using a timer, or if your child can tell the time, negotiate deals - "How much time do you need to be ready to come and set the table?" "Just letting you know you have five minutes on the timer before you need to start getting ready for school"

Preferably get them involved in the decision making, that way they get to practice negotiation - you hold the bigger picture - so you know how much leeway there is. The more involved they are, the more they will comply and keep to the agreement. If we have imposed a time on them, they are less likely to want to comply.

Part Four Follows . . .

Parenting Discipline - Part Four
by: Annie Desantis

When you have a problem with him/her not cooperating, say "we have a problem - I am wanting you to tidy up and you want to keep playing. How can we solve this so we are both happy?"

Get them involved in taking responsibility for sorting issues out. His/her job is not to please you, but it is his job to learn to get along with people in the world, and finding win/win solutions is a very valuable skill to learn.

Don't expect him/her to respond to new ideas immediately. You can expect some testing to find out if you are going to be consistent. And there will be times when you blow it, and loose your temper and resort to hitting him/her. When that happens, make sure you come back afterwards and say you want to find different ways to make this family work, and you are learning to get better control of your anger and that you don't like
hitting. And of course make sure your child knows how much you love them.

There will be lots for you to think about and read, and many pages on this site will be helpful in developing better, more positive ways of parenting discipline. Feel free to pop back and add any further comments or ask more questions.

All the best Anurag,
Annie D :)

What To Do Publicly?
by: Anonymous

I recently was in a movie theater and an adult loudly threatened to "get out the belt" on a child for not sharing the popcorn!

I turned and looked at her but that is all I did. I do think it was an empty threat but it also made me worried for the child at home. This brings up a point, if you do hear that, should you say something to the mother?

What would help? Would they be aggressive or defensive? Would it help them think of how terrible they sound? Then if you actually witnessed abuse, say saw a child get smacked or hit in pubic, or pulled hard, as I did see by a nanny pulling a young toddler off of a city bus - should you report it to a police? (how can you even say who it was)?

The times I have seen things like this I think about them and feel terrible but do not actually intervene. If the child was in physical danger then I know I would step in.

Tricky One!
by: Annie Desantis

That is a really hard situation, I was just discussing this kind of issue with a couple of friends the other day.

Firstly, if you have your own children with you, your responsibility is to keep them safe, so risking any aggression from an angry defensive parent would not be such a good idea.

In many countries now there are laws forbidding parents to hit or smack their children. So in theory you can report it to police, but as you say how can you if you don't know who the parents are? In the case of the Nanny, if I was the parent I most certainly would want to know if my child was being mistreated in their care, but again you can only do that if you know the family.

At times I have picked up toddlers or babies when a Mother in the supermarket was loosing it. But you have to be very compassionate towards the parent as well as trying to keep the child safe. In most cases the parent is distressed too.

Sadly many of our parents need re-parenting. If a child grows up in a culture where violence or even physical punishment is the norm then they don't know any better. As the case with the Mom submitting the original question, in many cultures it is acceptable to discipline your child by smacking or physical punishment.

We can help on a wider scale by lobbying governments to promote workshops for parents, we can write articles, and we can discuss these kinds of issues to raise consciousness.

We can also hold a vision for all children to live in a peaceful world, with respect and care for others and our planet. And do what we can individually to foster that.

Confronting parents or radiating disapproval really does not help, and can even put the child at risk of retribution when they get home for shaming the parent.

No clear answers I know. I just try to send love and compassion to the parent - as well as the child. They are unlikely to learn new ways of parenting if they are feeling distressed, angry and judged.

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