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what is wrong with punishment and consequences, generic answers?

post #1 of 106
Thread Starter 
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post #2 of 106
What you have described are natural consequences. I think that most people here are against arbitrary consequences or punishments that don't relate to the inappropriate behavior.
post #3 of 106
We use natural consequences and logical consequences, which can be a bit contrived but are not arbitrary and random. For example, today my son pushed another little girl on the playground. She cried and ran away. If I hadn't observed the altercation, there would have been no negative consequence at the time-- my son would have been glad that she went home because she was annoying him. I went outside and brought him and told him that he was showing me that he needed some time to himself to cool off and could go back outside after he'd calmed down. Not really a natural consequence, but a logical one in my opinion. There was no shaming, no yelling, just time to cool off.

I think that PikkuMyy is right-- most people here are against arbitrary or illogical consequences. For example, if you don't put away your toys you are grounded. That doesn't really make sense to a kid because the two things are not related.

But you're right, there are some people who don't believe in imposing consequences at all and those people will have to speak for themselves.
post #4 of 106
Most of the examples you list are natural consequences; the action prompts the consequence regardless of any action by you, the parent. I think most everyone agrees that natural consequences are an excellent learning tool for children. What's up for debate are the consequences that are enforced by parents, which may be construed as punitive (whether that is your intention or not).

In my own experience with my dd, the threat of a punitive consequence (or of not receiving some kind of good thing) can often times get her to do or not do what I want...so that might be considered very effective. However, is it effective in the long run in directing her to do the right thing because it's the right thing, not because she will suffer some enforced consequence? And will she continue to do the right thing when no one is watching? And how do I respond when she starts giving consequences back to me? And, most disturbing, how do I get her to stop being so hard on herself over little things because she thinks she needs to give herself a consequence when I don't do it. All of these issues are what has led me to consider alternate approaches to consequences. Still, I believe there are scenarios where a consequence has it's place. (Tonight, despite cries to stop me, I removed from the counter the bottle of essential oils/herbs that we use for dd's teeth when I found her drinking it). However, I think we should have many other tools at hand so that the consequence approach is not routine, but instead utilized only when it's really necessary.

All that said, I'm all for following your instincts. We know our own children best and if it feels right, it probably is right for them.
post #5 of 106
I certainly believe that each kid is different so every parent much choose their own approach, that is to say that different families that follow the same philosophy will use different techniques. I know that with each of my children we use different techniques. My middle child, the one involved in the scenario I described above, needs much more directed guidance than my oldest does.
post #6 of 106
There is a distinction between discipline and punishment. I don't really do punishment anymore, but I'm working harder than ever on discipline.

Example- if dd won't share with another child, I point out to her how unhappy that child looks and how maybe we should find another toy for the other kid to play with. If dd resists, I simply find another toy for the other kid. So there's teaching, modeling. (When I did this recently, after the playdate, my dd expressed regret to me that she hadn't shared, and we took the opportunity to reflect on how we found a good solution and how we might find a better solution next time.)

Other example- we went to a dance class and dd was not participating. I wouldn't have cared normally, but her friend was taking cues from her and between the two of them they were being disruptive in a way. So I picked her up and gently took her outside. I told her "it makes people uncomfortable when some people don't participate. If you don't want to participate, we should wait out here or go home. Dd said she'd like to go back and participate, and we did. (This is more consequence-like, but I see it as teaching and not allowing behavior that I am not able to accept at the moment.)

There's lots of other examples, but you get my gist.

I feel that punishments draw attention away from people kids hurt or the situation at hand. It makes kids focus on their own feeling of hurt and anger at parents. It makes something that was about, say, safety, and turns it into a struggle between child and parent.

I don't let my kid do things that are flately unsafe, or to hurt others.

As for consequences, my dd is not quite three, so not really able to judge the consequences of her actions yet. I feel like natural consequeces are great for learning- but work better as teaching tools than punishments. When dd didn't want to wear anything other than sundresses in winter I decided to let her. It took a while before she asked for a coat (because I had made it into struggle), but she did eventually ask for one. And in the future, she asked for one faster each time she felt cold. Now she sometimes takes my word for it that it's cold before we go out the door. (A natural consequence, such as making her STAY cold because she disobeyed me would IMO be punative, and even distract from the teaching opportunity.)

Sorry for the long post. Hope you catch my meaning!
post #7 of 106
punishment: I saw you hit the dog. You are going to be grounded from tv for the rest of the week.

discipline: I saw you hit the dog. I know the dog took your toy and I know you're angry , but we handle anger differently than that. We don't hit animals or people. It hurts them. We need to show respect to animals and people. I'm giving you a short time to recover and think about hitting , then we'll apologize to the dog and see if you can play nicely.

punishment: We don't say dirty words around here. Sit in this corner for , lessee...how old are you? five? Five minutes.

discipline: That was a very dirty word you said. We try not to say dirty words here. What made you say that word? It really was very naughty. Let's sit on the couch for five minutes of quiet. Ya know it's harder and more grown up to NOT say a dirty word ?
post #8 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by mommyofshmoo

I feel that punishments draw attention away from people kids hurt or the situation at hand. It makes kids focus on their own feeling of hurt and anger at parents. It makes something that was about, say, safety, and turns it into a struggle between child and parent.

Exactly-- this needs emphasis. When a child is focused on anger at the all-powerful punishing parent, they don't learn anything except, perhaps, to be afraid of future punishment. This is especially true of spanking.

As for the example of adults being kept in line by fear of imprisonment, well,l think that's not really accurate. Look at statistics comparing crime rates and imprisonment rates. Also, I don't refrain from stealing because I fear getting caught-- I know I could get away with it, but feel it's wrong. That internally motivated conscience is what we want to cultivate in children. And this, I think, is what our punitive culture is seriously lacking.
post #9 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jen123
punishment: I saw you hit the dog. You are going to be grounded from tv for the rest of the week.

discipline: I saw you hit the dog. I know the dog took your toy and I know you're angry , but we handle anger differently than that. We don't hit animals or people. It hurts them. We need to show respect to animals and people. I'm giving you a short time to recover and think about hitting , then we'll apologize to the dog and see if you can play nicely.

punishment: We don't say dirty words around here. Sit in this corner for , lessee...how old are you? five? Five minutes.

discipline: That was a very dirty word you said. We try not to say dirty words here. What made you say that word? It really was very naughty. Let's sit on the couch for five minutes of quiet. Ya know it's harder and more grown up to NOT say a dirty word ?
In my house those discipline examples would be seen as nagging and shaming.
post #10 of 106
I'm a behavior analyst so these are all terms I work with daily. Here are the "professional" definitions of these terms:

discipline-Training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior, especially training that produces moral or mental improvement.

punishment- Any stimulus that represses a behavior

consequence- what occurs right after a behavior (behavior being ANY action)

The problem I think many people have is associating consequence and punishment with overtly negative things i.e. hitting, yelling, time-out. But this isn't really the case. One can be punished by compliments, praise, and rewards as well as time outs as anything that stops a behavior is considered a punisher. There are several good books on the subject, I think "Punished by Praise" is one of them and there are several MDC mamas who have read them.

A consequence occurs after every action/behavior we make. The consequence of taking the cookies out of the oven on time is a delicious cookie, the consequence of treating people kindly is they listen to you, the consequence of driving safely is lower car insurance. All actions have a reaction. A negative consequence is something that the person doing the action does not like. This gets tricky because what is one persons negative consequence is anothers positive consequence. I like to get to the movies early and watch the previews. It is a positive consequence for me arriving early. My friend hates previews and therefore arriving to the theater early is a negative consequence for her. Ice cream is a positive consequence for me but for DH who doesn't like it is a negative consequence.

Because of these intricacies I have a hard time with people who say, "I don't believe in consequences or punishment." Whether one believes or not they are everywhere There is nothing evil, wrong, or malicious in consequences or punishment, it is all in how they are used--either to build up or break down--for me that is where GD/AP comes in utlizing skills and parenting techniques to build up a child. Talking and respecting instead of hitting and belittling.

So that is the "more" I have to offer.
Jenne
post #11 of 106
I am glad someone started this thread b/c i have been wondering about this for some time now. I guess i just don't understand the whole "natural consequences " thing. How is "natural" defined? It seems, from reading through the threads in this forum, that "natural consequences" are solely those that affect the child herself, as a result of the action taken or object involved, and that the response of other human beings is excluded. An example given in another thread was that if a child broke something, the consequence would be that it was broken and couldn't be played with anymore. This, to me, is setting up an extremely unrealistic environment for the child. In the real world, we don't live in a vacuum where the only consequences of our actions are on us and our objects; there are other people around who are also affected by our actions and who will react to them in various ways. I see all human response as "natural" -- humans are not outside nature, we are part of it. A parent disciplining their child (whether punitively or not) falls well within the realm of "natural consequences" in my opinion. To create an artificial boundary between human response and all other consequences seems a very arbitrary and narrow definition of "natural".

Another example: on another thread we were discussing whether it was ever appropriate to swat your child's arm to prevent them from hurting themselves. One mama said that if her child reached out to touch a hot stove, she would not swat his arm b/c the natural consequences of touching a hot stove is getting burnt. Once again, this is creating an artificial environment for the child in which he operates in a vacuum. The natural consequence of reaching out to touch a hot stove is getting burnt, yes, unless there is a caring person around to stop you. This is where i have a problem with the whole thing -- it seems to make no provision for real-life human interaction. There will be plenty of times later on when i am not around to save my child from harm or discipline her for wrongdoing (hopefully she won't be doing too much of that!) without me actively refraining from it when i can actually do something! I would rather have my child remember me swatting her arm to prevent her from injury than have her remember me standing by while she burnt herself b/c i didn't want to interfere with the natural consequences. I also would not want to be standing in the emergency ward explaining that particular philosophy to a social worker.

I guess i just see all consequences, including sometimes illogical human response, as natural. What seems unnatural to me is parents purposefully restraining themselves from actively shaping their child's behaviour and making themselves miserable over their "failures" when they do impose consequences or punishments of their own devising. Some things deserve punishment. Some acts may leave the child totally unaffected but someone else in misery. And sometimes we should be ashamed of our behaviour. Shame and guilt get a bad rap but they are necessary emotions or we would all be sociopaths.

Anyway, i didn't mean to hijack the thread but i didn't want to start a whole new one on the same topic... i know there will be plenty of people who disagree with me, but i honestly don't get it and wonder if anyone else finds these logical inconsistencies confusing. Let me know your thoughts, but please don't flame me! I'm not heckling, really, just bemused! :
post #12 of 106
Thread Starter 
I am deleting all my posts.
post #13 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zipporah
. A parent disciplining their child (whether punitively or not) falls well within the realm of "natural consequences" in my opinion. To create an artificial boundary between human response and all other consequences seems a very arbitrary and narrow definition of "natural".
That is a really interesting way to think about it. I just want my childrens "natural consequence" of my human response to be one that is teaching and loving, not punitive or abusive (emotionally or physically).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zipporah
Shame and guilt get a bad rap but they are necessary emotions or we would all be sociopaths.
I don't agree with that one at all. I don't think developing a conscience requires shame and guilt. Not in my world.
post #14 of 106
Kathipaul, we cross posted, so I wanted to respond to your points, just generally.
I have noticed in my personal life, being surounded by AP/GDish people, that you do run into families like "Sams". That makes me nuts too!
I'm sure I'm generalizing, but those parents seem to be the ones that don't use "negative" consequences etc..because they are afraid of upsetting thier children. Like they don't ever want their kids to experience being sad, dissapointed, hurt or unsatisfied with life. THAT I don't think benefits the child (or anyone else!) at all, as you saw.

I DO think (or I know for my own family) that you can raise kind, thoughtful children without shaming them into complience or using punitive measures. Even with out them, my kids do still feel angry, sad, dissappointed, whathaveyou over a decision, or a situation. That's perfectly fine with me- that's life!
post #15 of 106
I think most folks agree that logical negative consequences have their place even in the world of GD. But I think they tend to be over-used because they really are effective in getting an immediate response. However, in many cases it makes sense to subordinate what you want right now (i.e. stop trying to take that toy from that other kid) for what you want eventually (i.e. choose to use words to ask for a turn). The punitive consequence option may be that you say something like "if you don't stop grabbing that toy out of his/her hands, we're leaving right now...1...2...3!" If this is my dd, her hands are off that toy by the time I get to 3. But she's been disempowered. Alternately, I could sit down with them and say "let's think of a solution!" and get input from both kids. Now her confidence is boosted in feeling like she can work through these kinds of situations.

Conversely, if dd starts hitting, there is always a consequence (ours is that I hold her so that she cannot hit and talk to her calmly about using words to express frustration or hitting soft things to let out some steam). Knowing my dd as intimately as I do, I know that this is a situation where she needs a consequence. Though she perceives it as a negative consequence, it's not punitive. If my voice were not calm, it would feel punitive...and that's a very important distinction that can have a drastic impact on her ability to refrain from focusing all her anger at me.

It seems like we're all on a learning curve with GD and a lot of it seems to be trial and error for what works for our particular child in various scenarios. Honestly, this is one of the greatest challenges of my life!

-di (mama to Rylee 11/01)
post #16 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jenne
discipline-Training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior, especially training that produces moral or mental improvement.

punishment- Any stimulus that represses a behavior

consequence- what occurs right after a behavior (behavior being ANY action)

One can be punished by compliments, praise, and rewards as well as time outs as anything that stops a behavior is considered a punisher.

A consequence occurs after every action/behavior we make.
Good definitions! Every single thing we do or say has a consequence of some sort. I agree that whether a consequence is positive or negative, and whether it is a punishment or a reinforcer, is totally subjective. How I perceive things may be totally different from how my child or anyone else perceives them. So really, it's difficult-if not impossible-to ever say that the use of an particular type of consequence is always bad or always good. One person's natural consequences are another person's negligent parenting. One person's praise-as-positive-reinforcement is another person's punishment. KWIM?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jenne
There is nothing evil, wrong, or malicious in consequences or punishment, it is all in how they are used--either to build up or break down--for me that is where GD/AP comes in utlizing skills and parenting techniques to build up a child. Talking and respecting instead of hitting and belittling.
I agree with this wholeheartedly. This is the essence of GD. I think my task as a parent is to know which actions of mine build up my children and which break them down-and that is different for each of them.
post #17 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by kathipaul
To finish this long story, he ended up in counseling for his anger issues, dad took notice of the problem and changed his work to be more with Sam, Sam moved in with dad to get away from mom who had new boyfriend and no time for Sam, dad started imposing rules and consequences, and by the end of the school year, Sam was a happier, more responsible boy.
It sounds to me like Sam had a lot of stuff going on -- not just his mother's discipline philosophy. Since it all changed at once there's no way to know which change did the trick -- my personal guess is that learning anger management strategies and living with a parent who had time and was willing to pay attention to him were the biggest factors.

I don't remember a lot about my parents' discipline style when I was very young, but starting pretty early I set my own bedtime, I always decided when (and whether or not) to do my homework, I was never given punishments like grounding, no TV, etc. I was a model student and never got in trouble at school. I was valedictorian of my high school class. I earned a BS in Physics with highest honors and am about to finish a PhD in Physics. I'm bragging on myself simply to illustrate that allowing children a lot of autonomy within a loving and supportive family environment does not mean they will not learn to handle structured situations or excel in the "real world."
post #18 of 106
kathipaul wrote:
He had always been allowed to participate in any decision making, even if it affected his health. He could choose to take meds, go to doc, when to go to bed, whether to do homework. He could even make a decision about how to solve problems. If he wanted to hit someone, mom said that he could make his own decisions.

You could be, for the most part, describing my children here. Dh and I give numerous opinions about various things, we share information & experience we might have...but the end choice is almost always made by the kids. I suppose if one of them (Goddess forbid) wanted to kill themselves, well clearly that is a choice I wouldn't be supporting. But those kinds of extreme things aside they make their own choices.

Everything from when to sleep, what/when to eat, when to clean their room, and how to solve problems. Shouldn't we be encouraging children to decide how to solve problems? (Just asking because that bit stuck out at me in your post) My son has made a decision to hit someone in the past. He felt it was necessary, and he dealt with the consequences (with me there for support of course)


. He would have a fit if he did not get points for turning in homework because his was not done. He would throw a fit if he had to miss recess because he had not finished his work. He would throw a fit if he was sent to the office for beligerently not following directions and arguing with the teacher.

That would be very frustrating I'm sure. However, I would have a hard time saying that his freedom to make choices was the problem or cause of his behavior. My guess is that the chaos of his family life (as sometimes happens with divorce, new boyfriends, moving, and not seeing a parent as much) played a large part in how angry and probably sad Sam was.

Sam moved in with dad to get away from mom who had new boyfriend and no time for Sam, dad started imposing rules and consequences, and by the end of the school year, Sam was a happier, more responsible boy.

I highlighted a bit up there that, to me, says alot about why Sam was so ticked off. Mom had no time for Sam. This sounds less like my situation (where the parents are very involved, but there are no punishments etc) and more like a situation where mom was caught up, for whatever reason, in her own drama at the time. Just thinking out loud... I wouldn't be suprised if Sam was happier with his dad, and that said happiness went a long way to him being more responsive and cooperative to the people & situations around him.

See what I mean? I just don't understand how parents think their kids are going to function in the real world without learning about consequences, even negative ones. If they are going to be homeschooled or go to a radical alternative program, that is different. But, if you are going to try to send them to regular program and expect them to go to a regular college and get a regular job, they have to learn how things work.

Well, my kids are unschoolers so you are right that we don't have that public school issue. My kids did decide to take some classes last year though. Dd took violin and journalism, and together her and Ds took Japanese. There were teachers, class rules, homework assignments, and deadlines.

My unschooled children who have no required "chores", no mandatory bedtime, and who are in on the decisions that involve them had no problem meeting the rules of these classes. They were prompt, prepared, and happy to be there... and they did it without any rules to make them do so. We have no worries about college lol Who is to say that kids can't learn how things work with much discussion from involved caring parents that explain and model?
post #19 of 106
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post #20 of 106
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