Okay, finally get a chance to respond to this post!Why are punishments and consequences wrong?
For the sake of discussion I'm going to limit the terms "punishment/consequences" to those imposed by the parent, rather than getting into a discussion of "natural vs logical consequences", etc...
Here is why I think they are "wrong" (btw, I'd rather use: completely ineffective and damaging, rather than pass a moral judgement on them)...
Parents are able to impose punishments and consequences on kids for one simple reason: they are "bigger", both physically and psychologically. If your 25 month old was 6 feet tall and 200 lbs, you'd have a hell of a time wresting the beloved toy out of her hands and throwing it to the dog. The power to punish stems from the same power we have to nurture (feed, hold, clothe, love...). We can do these things and they cannot.
The first problem with punishment/consequences is that, at some age, you will lose that power. Usually in adolescence. As soon as your child can walk out the door without you, you've lost that power. Right there is, to me, a fundamental limit of this method. I love what Thomas Gordon wrote: "An adolescent does not rebel against her parents
, she rebels against their power
." Preventing the whole "teen rebellion" thing is a huge motivator, for me.
Second, even with young children, the ability to punish depends on doing/taking something of value to the child. Threatening loss of the beloved toy to the dog worked. But what if the child decides "to heck with you, go ahead and give my toy away, I don't care, I'm going to keep throwing toys off the balcony". Then what do you do? You may look for a different, stronger punishment...and this is a battle that can go back and forth if your child is strong-willed enough.
But I think the greatest reason for not using punishments/consequences is the effect it has on the child. I sure know how *I* felt when punished, or when my parents imposed a 'consequence" on me...here is a list of emotions/reactions (from Thomas Gordon's book "Parent Effectiveness Training"):
Resistance, defiance, rebellion, resentment, hostility, anger, agression, retaliation, lying, blaming others, cheating, bossing, bullying, sore loser, submission, compliance, obedience, "butt-kissing" other authority figures, conformity, lack of creativity, fear of trying....
These feelings are pretty much universal in humans. I think it goes back to what ICM wrote before: a child who is the victim of the unfair power a parent has over them is unlikely to view their punishment as a "lesson", but rather to focus on their own feelings of being a victim. These emotions put us on the defensive, triggering a "fight or flight" mechanism where we view the situation as "us vs. them"...I don't want that dynamic in ANY relationship I have, including that with my children. And I SURE don't want them growing up thinking that is a normal relationship to have with their bosses, lovers, spouses, etc...
Despite popular belief, it is possible to have "rules" or "limits" or "principles"...boundaries by which children learn, without having to ever impose punishments. So the idea that "no punishment/consequences = no rules" is false.
Punishment does not INFLUENCE a child, punishment FORCES a child. The child threatened with having a beloved toy given to the dog is not learning anything about why it is wrong to throw toys over the balcony, other than it is a specific way to avoid having a loved toy taken away. The child has not been taught or convinced or persuaded or motivated...they have been coerced/forced. As soon as the threat of giving the toy away is gone, or loses its value, the behaviour is free to continue (and research shows it will...the child becomes so focussed on getting back what they had that they tend to do it given half a chance - the parent is gone, for example - just to exert their independence and will). I think this is human nature.
I guess, finally, the reason why I think punishment and consequences are "wrong" is because they are simply unnecessary. It very much IS possible to raise wonderful, self-disciplined, self-motivated children without having to exert parental power in this manner. And it really begs the question...given a choice, why would any parent CHOOSE to use these methods? It seems to me, it is clearly because they have run out of options, a limit of their own knowledge, rather than any proof that it is actually an effective means of discipline. (and we have only to refer to my thread last week of what happened when I ran head-first against the limit of my own knowledge