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Punishment: is it ever necessary?

post #1 of 188
Thread Starter 
There are those who strive to never use punishment (and I consider imposed consequences to be punishment), and those who think sometimes it is necessary.

I myself honestly believe that there is never a need for punishment. And I think this applies to everybody. And while I, too, am suspicious of any sweeping generalizations in parenting, the reason I hold to this one is b/c there are simply so many ways to acheive a solution that it covers all children and families, regardless of situation or temperament, etc.

I believe that choosing to never use punishment can be compared to choosing to be vegetarian. When you start out you don't have many recipe ideas but you don't run out and buy a Big Mac whenever the going gets tough (and if you do you pick yourself back up, hopefully are kind to yourself, and try again). You look harder, seek out new ideas and recipes. Similar with non-punitive parenting. When you are in a tough situation and punishment would be a quick fix and you cannot see any way else to handle it...well, you do the best you can in that moment and then you try to find a better way that doesn't involve punishment.

If some people DO believe that it's possible to never use punishment, but choose to do so anyway and are aware of the consequences (ha! a pun!), that is not what I'm wishing to discuss. I'm wishing to be a bit philosophical and argue whether it's possible, and if so what it looks like. Is it being permissive, too child-focused, etc? In other words, can YOU (whoever you are) stay true to your values as a mother, as a family, as a person and still eschew punishment completely?

Let's discuss!
post #2 of 188
I cannot stay true to my values as a person or mother and eschew punishment completely. Sometimes, unfortuneately, I do need that quick fix. I strive to rarely use it and in the bigger scheme of things we totally problem solve together.

My ultimate goals as a parent are to raise my kids to be accountable, to be able to handle consequences, to think critically (and of course to be ahppy and loved and attached and all that jazz). I don't feel I can instill the first three I listed without imposing limits and consequences for certain behaviours. But these are not just arbitrarily applied without discussion of the 'bigger picture' and a chance for group problem solving if we have some kind of ongoing issue.

I would rather my kids experience fabricated (sort of) consequences at home in a safe environment than out in the big world.

I know too many deadbeat dads to raise sons without accountability. I know too many people living within the justice system too. I don't agree with the justice system but it *is* there and it *does* destroy lives.
post #3 of 188
Need to sleep on this more - but something about "no punishment never" bothers me, because I am a practicing Jew and punishment is mentioned in the Torah. On the other hand, the Oral Tradition tells that things like stoning were never needed, because the people understood what the consequence would be and did not do these things. But I know for many the idea of a "threat of punishment" is problematic. On the other hand, the threat of punishment is useful to me to this day - I don't speed because I don't want a ticket. Some might say they would want me to not speed because I don't want to hurt others - and I don't, but... it's easy to think it's not likely to hurt anybody if I went 5 miles over the speed limit. The threat of the punishment works on me, and I am grateful for it.
post #4 of 188
I haven't yet come across a situation with my ds that I think would be helped by punishment. He is not an easy compliant child, lest anyone thinks I haven't because of his temperament. I have removed things that he is misusing when he gets out of control, just until he is in control again. I have removed him physically from situations when he has gotten out of control, as well. He isn't upset after I've done that and it is usually due to being tired or hungry. I don't view that as punishment, just helping an overstimulated kid get his needs met. My ds is a reasonable kid when he isn't completely unreasonable .
post #5 of 188
I've been thinking more. This is an interesting topic. I think it's sort of idealistic to think that punishment is never necessary. Of course, this depends how we define punishment and since, in the OP it is being described as imposed consequences, I will go along with that. I 'punish' politicians by not voting for them and by lecturing them in the form of letters . I get 'punished' at school with poor grades if I don't study.

I also think that kids are, by nature, very self-centered for a long time. I think it is my duty, as their guide, to teach them that others must be considered. If that means I must impose some limits to their behaviour because it infringes upon the rights of others in the family (myself included!) from enjoying my life in peace and tranquility, then the payoff is worth the sacrifice. I always offer solutions or space for them to think sme up for their mistakes. I do not place 'blame' and shame upon them. But I have faith in their ability to live up to a high standard of accountability.

Just some thoughts...
post #6 of 188
Can you clarify "imposed consequences?"

Do you mean the "physically forced into the carseat" thing? Or the count to 3(after many appropriate warnings, on a problem area), you haven't chosen, so I choose for you thing? Does it count if the kids came up with it? (ie. what should we do if you hit your brother with the tennis racket? "Put up the tennis racket." Put up the tennis racket, kid seems to feel punished, wants it back out.)

Because no, in my family, for my kids, for our goals as parents, time outs, illogical consequences and punishments (which I think of as arbitrary negative consequences) are not necessary. But definitely I move consequences along (put them in the carseat, count to 3 in a GD way) on occasion, and I do find it necessary for our family. Without that it would not be possible for us to be respectful to each family member as they needed it, given our relative developmental levels and hopes for the things we wish to teach our children.
post #7 of 188
Quote:
Originally Posted by Piglet68 View Post
In other words, can YOU (whoever you are) stay true to your values as a mother, as a family, as a person and still eschew punishment completely?
in short, yes I can.

I am wondering what you consider imposed consequences. I think in some situations there is a very fine line.
I'm thinking about situations like this- Say we're in a store, and ds is running around. (this is hypothetical btw). I discuss, express my expectations, etc etc. He keeps running, and I'm worried that he's going to go out of my sight, and that is unsafe.
So I offer some solutions, and ds doesn't choose either. I end up picking him up, and carrying him. I try to make it as agreeable as I can (we can "chug chug" like a train).
Would that be an *imposed consequence* or what?
And to make it even more confusing, I can think of a very similar response that I would consider punishment. Like, if someone were yelling at their dc about "come here RIGHT NOW or I will CARRY YOU!" and is kinda harsh with their words or action.
I think it's pretty dependent on the tone of voice, and the intent of the parent (ie, if I'm doing it to "teach a lesson" it might feel more like punishment, but if I'm doing it because it's the only way I can see to keep ds safe, it feels like its not punishment)

I don't really know how to say it, or exactly what counts as what. lol.
post #8 of 188
Quote:
Originally Posted by 4evermom View Post
I haven't yet come across a situation with my ds that I think would be helped by punishment. He is not an easy compliant child, lest anyone thinks I haven't because of his temperament. I have removed things that he is misusing when he gets out of control, just until he is in control again. I have removed him physically from situations when he has gotten out of control, as well. He isn't upset after I've done that and it is usually due to being tired or hungry. I don't view that as punishment, just helping an overstimulated kid get his needs met. My ds is a reasonable kid when he isn't completely unreasonable .
That describes me pretty much too but the OP has defined punishment to include imposed consequences and I think what we do would fall under that category (?).
post #9 of 188
Quote:
Originally Posted by mamajama View Post
That describes me pretty much too but the OP has defined punishment to include imposed consequences and I think what we do would fall under that category (?).
Would that mean feeding him is an imposed consequence ? Because I do that, give him candy when he's acting crazy when he has run out of food.
post #10 of 188
Punishment. Imposed consequences? Time out? Putting a child in a stroller if they won't put on footwear? Removing a cat from the child's grasp if they won't stop harassing it? Pulling your baby off the breast if they bite you?

All those things are imposed consequences. If that is punishment, then yes, I think it's necessary.

These things that get villainized here are such slippery slopes, kwim?


eta - I was veg for 15 years. Got lots of recipes, but in the end it wasn't healthy for my body. Now I'm trying to eat meat again.
post #11 of 188
I'd say this is the way dp and I work at parenting. It hasn't meant that sometimes when they were babies we didn't say, "Oh man, it seems like you are toasted. Let's quit doing this activity and go chill somewhere." It hasn't meant no tantrums: why just this week, dd2 awoke from a nap to discover that dd1 and I had left to go to the doctor to get dd1's hand x-rayed. She completely flipped her lid and screamed so loudly our neighbor-friends came over to see if everyone was alright. Dp was holding her and reassuring her, but she was pretty much inconsolable. Our neighbor-friends were shocked because she is generally very zen, but hey, we all have bad days. (They hung around to share their love and distraction.)

It doesn't mean no conflict. For example, dd1 wants me to read her Magic Tree House books before bed. They have been becoming progressively scarier. So tonight during the California 1906 Earthquake, I said, "Look, I'm not going to read these at night. They freak you out. (Note you are now jumping on the bed because it's scary.) I will read them in the morning or when I get home from work. But it's not working to read them at night.

You want me to read the end of that Enki Nature Story I started?"

She had earlier been clear she wanted me to read them right before bed, but was okay that I had reached my limit with freaking her out when she is tired.

I admit that I find the stay calm and distant when you are upset about something discipline approaches completely not my style. I'd *rather* say, That ear shattering noise is driving me nuts. Could you please take it outside?
I'd rather do that then say, that ear shattering noise is driving me nuts. Sit in the corner for 3 minutes. or that ear shattering noise is unacceptable, that's 1.

My entire parenting philosopy is contained in the words, "Parent the kid in front of you." I don't just love my kids, I like them. They're quirky and smart and funny. Cheap entertainment and a personal trainer all rolled into one.

Sometimes they piss me off. Rarely, so does dp. Sometimes I piss them off. I'm not always calm; I'm not always patient; I'm not always nice. But they're all very forgiving. We all try really hard to see things from the other person's perspective (okay, the 2 year old currently sucks at this, but she's been sick for 2 weeks). We try hard to meet each other's needs. We try hard not to battle over things that don't matter. We try hard not to back down on things that do. We sleep and eat and learn and play together. And we mostly get along really well.

There is nothing to compare to being known and loved.

The more I think about it, the more I think that what makes my relationships work with my kids is the same thing that has made my relationship with dp so good in our years together. Even the struggle to understand makes the relationship stronger when you *don't* pull out the ultimatums.

So I'm grateful I got the "strong-willed" "sensory sensitive" "persistent" "high-needs" kids. They've led me down the path to where I am now. Assertive about my needs or sucking up my needs depending on where we all are at the moment. Now I have what I need and what I want in my life.
post #12 of 188
Quote:
Originally Posted by 4evermom View Post
Would that mean feeding him is an imposed consequence ? Because I do that, give him candy when he's acting crazy when he has run out of food.

I also impose the consequence of my kids getting extra cuddles and love if they feel blue.
post #13 of 188
Short answer is no, I don't believe punishment is ever necessary. I also don't believe "punishment" is a respectful act. I know I would feel very disrespected if my husband decided to "punish" me one way or another.

Plus I do not see a point in "making" somebody do/not do something in order to avoid punishment.
post #14 of 188
Quote:
Originally Posted by irinam View Post
Short answer is no, I don't believe punishment is ever necessary. I also don't believe "punishment" is a respectful act. I know I would feel very disrespected if my husband decided to "punish" me one way or another.

Plus I do not see a point in "making" somebody do/not do something in order to avoid punishment.

Do you ever think, "well I won't do that because it would upset my dh"?
I guess I'm just a little hazy on the 'imposed consequences" idea. I am also leery of treating little kids like mini-adults yk? Because they aren't. They're kids with different needs and abilities than adults.

I'm sure there are some things my kids do because if they didn't I'd be annoyed or upset--like swearing or yelling at me or something yk? I try to stay away from extrinsic motivation as much as possible for sure! But sometimes it's just necessary for us, I think.
post #15 of 188
Quote:
Originally Posted by mamajama View Post

I also impose the consequence of my kids getting extra cuddles and love if they feel blue.
I guess it depends on the child's view of the situation. Does the child feel punished when hugged and cuddled and fed candy? He might. My mom once rolled my big brother up in a rug to keep him from beating up on the younger kids. But she fed him chocolate because she figured he was acting like that because he was out of fuel. He hated being confined so that was more of a punishment than a reward (my grandmother hypothesized he would do it again to get chocolate). But that is pretty much what I do with ds, more protecting others and ending a situation than a punishment, IMO though. Like the unconditional parenting stuff, the important thing is that the child feels loved unconditionally, not whether the parent loves their child unconditionally.
post #16 of 188
The main punishment I do right now is giving my child time out if she won't put on her shoes and it's time to leave.

When I say that around here I feel compelled to put the : on my head. But honestly, it's the fastest thing. I always do everything else first, and about half the time we don't get to time out. But when she is sitting on her feet and ignoring me, I pull out the time out and she immediately untucks the toes, shoes go on, and we are on our way.

I find as mama I have to have some solutions up my sleeve where I know I'm going to be able to get what I need, done. When I was trying to do no parent imposed consequences entirely, I found I very quickly began to feel powerless, and angry. It's no fun to have your agenda controlled by the whims of a 3 year old who doesn't have a sense of time or responsibility. Negotiating with a small person to get myself to school on time just didn't work for me.

An angry, feeling powerless mama is not a good mama.

Now what I am doing is trying to hone my life so we get to the mama imposed consequence as rarely as possible. But I do still use them, I don't have a way to get rid of them without ending up in the situation we were in before, which didn't involve time out but was a hell of a lot less pleasant than our life together now.
post #17 of 188
Quote:
Originally Posted by 4evermom View Post
the important thing is that the child feels loved unconditionally, not whether the parent loves their child unconditionally.
I agree completely.
post #18 of 188
Thread Starter 
Wow! Great replies thus far. To clarify:

Quote:
Originally Posted by 4evermom
I have removed things that he is misusing when he gets out of control, just until he is in control again. I have removed him physically from situations when he has gotten out of control, as well. He isn't upset after I've done that and it is usually due to being tired or hungry. I don't view that as punishment, just helping an overstimulated kid get his needs met.
ITA. Deva and others had similar examples.

Unfortunately it's not always easy to draw the line b/c I think the distinction comes with tone and intent. Some argue this is nit-picky but I absolutely believe that kids know the difference. So:

Mama: "I see you are having trouble leaving the playground today and we can't seem to come up with a solution that works for both of us so I'm going to help you by carrying you to the car" [and while child protests and tantrums mama offers sympathy "it's hard isn't it? I totally know how you feel"]. not punishment

VERSUS

Mama: "We need to leave. Either you come with me now or I will make you leave. Okay that's it, we're leaving!" [angrily totes off child and berates child for tantruming]. punishment

Another example:

"If you don't clean up this mess I'm putting it away for a while and you won't be able to play with these toys!" punishment

VERSUS

"I see you are having a hard time using this toy safely. I think we'll put it away until I can sit with you and help you use it safely." not punishment

I think what most of you are describing is not punishment. But hey, I'm not the decider so let's discuss that too if you like!
post #19 of 188
Quote:
Originally Posted by mamajama View Post
I agree completely.
Me too. That's an Alfie Kohn quote isn't it? It really resonates. But I think there are multiple roads to that end, kwim?
post #20 of 188
Honestly piglet I tend toward the method of communication you are labelling as punishment. But it's more that I'm a direct communicator. (And so is my dd. ) I mean, it's *true* that if they don't clean up I'm putting away the toys, kwim?

I honestly would feel that I was being deceptive if I tried to cozy it up in pretty language. Not to say that others are necessarily doing that, because you are not if that's your natural communication style. But it's not mine, so it would be for me, and my kid would know and probably feel manipulated.

I like direct, respectful, and loving interaction.
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