Punishment, Discipline and Child Development
Do they get along?!
To some parents being in control means disciplining their children using authority and power. To others, it means to control their emotions in difficult situations and purposefully and effectively communicate with their children.
The first group is more likely to use punishment to show they are in control. I find the second group’s approach more practical and favouring child development.
In this edition, I will go over the effects of punishment on child development and, if not punishment, then how you should guide and coach your children.
What is punishment?
Merriam-Webster defines punishment as suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution. And just like any sentence that starts with” Meriam-Webster dictionary ….” punishment is outdated and ineffective. It loses the audience - hopefully, you all are still with me, though.
Punishment does not teach our children about controlling themselves; rather, it implies that we, the parents, are in control of them.
Punishment changes the perception our children have about themselves. They start seeing themselves as bad people rather than understanding that they might have made a wrong choice in certain circumstances.
What are the effects of punishment on child development?
When you use discipline to educate a child and correct their behaviour, you have taken away the opportunity to develop and define their inner order. Children should realize that they are encouraged by good behaviour, and even when no one is observing their actions, they still can make the right choices and behave well.
Punishing makes them “pretend to” act well in your presence, only to go in the wrong direction in your absence.
“Using fear to change behaviour does not work because children cannot learn when they are afraid.” - Lori Petro
Children quickly forget the behaviour they have been punished for, while the harmful effects of punishment remain in their minds for weeks.
You might consider throwing food, stubbornness, refusing to sleep or going to the bathroom as misconduct, but you have to remember that children’s brains are a work in progress. Therefore, some of their behaviour is the result of lacking intellectual maturity. Children’s inappropriate behaviour and coarse vandalism are carried out without any intention. These behaviours may be caused by mischievousness, high energy, anger, confusion and feelings of dissatisfaction. It is your job as parents to understand the underlying causes of such behaviours. By only sending your child to their room to be alone and thinking about what they’ve done or just punishing them on the spot, you are not sending them the message you want. Deprivation sends the message to a child that they are alone in difficult and frightening moments of life, and their parents are not there when they need them the most. It creates an emotional wedge between you and your children, so they don't feel safe and loved by you.
Not only doesn’t punishment result in faster brain development in your children but it also causes severe behavioural problems. It could hinder crucial brain development.
So, what are the alternatives?
Raising a child without punishment has principles and techniques that are effective in most cases. In general, these methods are based on effective communication, kindness and mutual understanding, and at the same time, the necessary boundaries are also applied. In one word, empathy would be the key:
Control your emotions.
For your children to learn how to control their “big feelings,” they need to see you doing so. Children learn from mirroring and observing their parents, not telling them what to do.
In difficult situations, when you find yourself out of control, take a deep breath, give yourself some time before you take the next step. One of the principles of raising a child without punishment is to avoid impulsive behaviour.
Reflect and respond rather than react.
Respect your children’s emotions. Show empathy when your child is dealing with big emotions. It would be best to show you are comfortable with your child’s big emotions and understand them. This results in your child’s trust and comfort regarding their feelings. Reflection helps you achieve this and helps your child better understand their feelings.
Your goal is to create a suitable platform for your child to show their emotions and learn how to deal with them.
Connection before correction.
Get close to the child before attempting to correct their behaviour.
Get into the same height as your child, look into their eyes and with a friendly tone, show them that you understand they are upset, angry, frustrated or whatever big emotions they are feeling.
Set boundaries but do so with empathy.
You should insist on conducting certain rules and limits, but you can also seek your child's opinion. Doing so makes them feel that you understand them, and as a result, they accept and understand the boundaries easier.
If you need practical tips and guidelines, refer to this article.
Each behaviour is a way of communication. (Children’s needs drive their behaviour.)
Children have reasons for their actions, even if these reasons do not make sense to you.
Have a set time daily for just the two of you.
No phone, no laptops. This is your time to talk, play, walk or do whatever makes you both happy. This is your daily quality time together.
Creating a joyful atmosphere full of laughter reduces your child’s fear and stress. Be fully present.
Forgive your mistakes
If you feel bad about yourself, you can't be an influential parent. It's never too late to reform relationships. Start now!
It is our responsibility, as parents, to learn positive communication skills and control our big emotions when dealing with unacceptable behaviours.
Children learn by living; the most effective means of raising a child are kindness and mutual understanding.
Your behaviour has a significant impact on changing your child's behaviour; you can show them the accepted behaviour by educating them properly instead of punishing your children.
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