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Punishment: is it ever necessary? - Page 9

post #161 of 188
Quote:
Originally Posted by Piglet68 View Post
I'm only belabouring the issue b/c I, too, am struggling with definitions. I still say what I did wasn't punishment, but I think it could be successfully argued that I used force and power. I don't think I did, but I can see how it's a gray area!
I am sooo with you there. lol.
I'd have called it coersion, but not punishment (even with the definition that daffodil used)
post #162 of 188
Quote:
Originally Posted by BellinghamCrunchie View Post
But by the definition of punishment I am using (an unpleasant stimulus that follows a behavior that causes the behavior to be less likely to occur in the future) I think its very, very difficult, and probably impossible, to raise children without punishment. Even showing your natural feelings: a frown, or a raised voice, averting eye contact... all of these things can influence behavior. Any of them could be punishment. Its impossible to control all the variations of human experience to avoid all punishment.
Yep, this is exactly how I see it, too. I sometimes say I don't punish, but I don't believe it's literally true. I just try not to punish in ways I think are particularly harmful. (Which pretty much means in ways Alfie Kohn thinks are harmful.)

It seems like a lot of people want to separate out the kinds of punishing they think are bad and use the word "punishment" only for those. It's simpler to say punishment is always wrong, and if something is okay it must not be punishment. But I just can't see it that way.

It would be nice if there were some simple word or phrase we could use to describe "bad punishing," but I can't think of one. It's not necessarily helpful to distinguish intentional and unintentional punishment, because unintentional punishment can be just as harmful. I don't think there's always a clear separation between the two, anyway. You might say that simply expressing your feelings in a natural way is completely different from intentionally punishing. But what if you have the ability (as most of us do, most of the time) to hide or minimize your natural feelings, but you choose not to? Couldn't it be argued that by expressing your anger (or sadness, annoyance, etc.) when you don't absolutely have to, you're making a deliberate choice to punish?

Instead of asking whether a particular action is or is not punishment (interesting as it might be to debate the question), it's probably more useful to ask: Does it undermine intrinsic motivation? Does it cause undue shame, humiliation, or resentment? Does it make the child feel you love him less when he acts in certain ways?
post #163 of 188
Quote:
Originally Posted by Piglet68 View Post
Just last night I had to pick up my DD and carry her into the bedroom. She was having a total meltdown because her brother was reading a book and she wanted to take it in to the bedroom for story time and I said no, she had to pick a different book. The poor kid was so tired and obviously not able to control her emotions. I felt sympathy for her. And I knew it was not her fault that she was reacting this way and also that it is unsettling for her and even frightening sometimes when she loses control of herself. So there was no scolding or demanding. I just gently said "hey, S is reading that book right now so we're going to have to go pick another one". And she started yelling and I could see she was not able to just go with me so I said "hey kiddo, let's go pick another story" and I picked her up and carried her to the bedroom.

She screamed "No! Put me down! I don't want to go!" but I carried her anyways and when we got in there I soon found ways to soothe her and within a minute or two of us arriving in the bedrom she was happily climbing in bed with another book. (yes, I pat myself on the back in moments like this because I have many moments where i screw it all up, lol!).

I thought about this example all night and how it WAS coercion on my part to carry her in there. But why wasn't it punishment? I know, but find it hard to write out.
I think there are three different ways to look at the "was it punishment?" question.

One is to ask whether you meant it to be a punishment. It seems clear to me that you didn't. You weren't trying to do anything to change her future behavior, and you didn't want to give her an experience she would find aversive. You were just doing what you thought would get her happy again as quickly as possible.

You could also ask whether your actions actually served as a punishment. I don't think so. I suppose it's possible that being carried kicking and screaming into another room might have been unpleasant enough that it would make her less likely to melt down and have to be carried the next time something like this comes up. But I doubt it.

And you could ask whether your daughter perceived it as a punishment. Did she think you were upset about the way she was acting and deliberately trying to do something unpleasant to her as a punishment? I doubt it, from the way you described it.
post #164 of 188
Quote:
Originally Posted by Daffodil View Post
You might say that simply expressing your feelings in a natural way is completely different from intentionally punishing. But what if you have the ability (as most of us do, most of the time) to hide or minimize your natural feelings, but you choose not to? Couldn't it be argued that by expressing your anger (or sadness, annoyance, etc.) when you don't absolutely have to, you're making a deliberate choice to punish?
Very interesting discussion! Thanks everyone.

I find I'm a bit bothered by this question (bolded above). Can you explain a bit further what you mean? How is my expressing of natural emotions a deliberate choice to punish?
post #165 of 188
Ok, so we can't really use the word "punishment" to say anything. lol

So I'm going to say it's definitely possible to parent without imposed penalties, which would include (punitive) time outs, groundings, and unrelated consequences. Iow, penalties (the way we are using them so far in this discussion lol) are not necessary.
It's probably possible to parent without using imposed consequences that are *intended* to change behavior. Iow, consequences that are intended to change behavior, are probably not necessary.
I don't think it's possible to parent totally without consequences that may or may not change behavior. Iow, consequences that actually change behavior (even though that wasn't the intention) probably are necessary, in that it seems that it would be near impossible to completely avoid them (though I wouldn't be surprised if there was a mama or two here that could!)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Daffodil
It seems like a lot of people want to separate out the kinds of punishing they think are bad and use the word "punishment" only for those. It's simpler to say punishment is always wrong, and if something is okay it must not be punishment. But I just can't see it that way.
But I think of it as separate because that's how the word punishment is seen in the general public. People hear "that child needs to be punished" and think spanking, timeout, take away priviledges, etc. They don't think "mom needs to look at him in a disapproving way that causes him to change his behavior." lol (ok I suck at spur of the moment examples)

It's hard to separate the every day common usage of the word, and the technical usage that seems to be accepted by many here. Maybe that's the bottom line for me.
post #166 of 188
Quote:
Originally Posted by Daffodil View Post
I think there are three different ways to look at the "was it punishment?" question.
Makes sense to me.
And if I apply that to my toys r us fiasco, it would end up not a punishment, as far as I can tell.
post #167 of 188
Quote:
Originally Posted by lolalola View Post
I find I'm a bit bothered by this question (bolded above). Can you explain a bit further what you mean? How is my expressing of natural emotions a deliberate choice to punish?
If we are using the technical definition of punishment, which is anything that makes a behavior less likely to occur in the future (not the exact words), then any number of things could be a punishment (even if those things aren't considered punishment when using the merriam webster definition of the word, which is basically "a penalty imposed for an offense")

Which sort of begs the question- which definition really is more useful in discussions like this? the technical one, or the commonly used one? (I'm honestly wondering this, I'm totally not being snarky!)
post #168 of 188
Quote:
Originally Posted by Piglet68 View Post

"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'm totally confused by this example. Perhaps both scenarios aren't connected?
How would you resolve scenario number one? My son knows that it's his responsability to put his toys back when he's done. If he doesn't, said toy is confiscated for a few days. I'd like to find an alternative...but I just can't think of a better way to appraoch the situation.

For the second scenario, I'm assuming we're talking about a child throwing a toy. I've appraoched this sitaution with my son a little differently. Toy flies across the room. I pick it up and hand it back, letting him know that throwing toys is harmful to others, and that it's not acceptable in our house. Toy flies across the room again. I pick up the toy and before handing it back to Kai, I let him know that if he throws it once more, it will be taken away. I then show him how to play with the toy on the floor. Toy flies across the room again, toy is taken away. I then remind him that I told him what would happen, and that the toy is being taken away until he can play with it properly. This has worked for Kai.

Now, the above example is a far cry from what my mom would've done to me as a little one. I feel that I made a good choice, considering the example I had to go by. What would you have done differently in my example?

I am eager to learn other alternatives.
post #169 of 188
So I haven't been on for almost 24 hours and I'm trying to catch up...I'm still 12 hours behind, lol, but I found something I couldn't wait to comment on.

The making up excuses/looking for the reason behind the behavior. I do believe that all behaviors - positive, negative or neutral - have some reason behind them. It could be something as major as underlying emotional issues, or something as mundane as a mixture of boredom and curiousity. I believe this is true for infants right on up to adults.

Just because there is a reason for the behavior though, does not necessarily make the behavior ok. Finding the reason does, however, make it easier to curb unwanted behavior. If a 2yo is tantruming at the grocery store, it is because they have a need or desire that is not being met. It could be that they're hungry, tired or are just wanting to go home because they've been out too long. If a teenager drinks at a party it could be because they don't have a good relationship with their parents, or school is too stressful, or maybe just because they're curious about it. If you can find that underlying reason, imo it makes it much easier to work on the behavior.
post #170 of 188
Quote:
Originally Posted by lolalola View Post
I find I'm a bit bothered by this question (bolded above). Can you explain a bit further what you mean? How is my expressing of natural emotions a deliberate choice to punish?
Well, you have some control over whether (and to what extent) you actually express your emotions, right? Maybe not all the time, but a lot of the time. I know I sometimes feel angry, but try not to show it - especially if it's my 1 year old who's making me angry. It's not going to be helpful in any way to show him how I really feel when, for what seems like the hundredth time that day, he's screaming in frustration because I'm trying to stop him from damaging something.

So when I DO show my anger or annoyance or frustration or whatever, it's not as if it's something that just happens automatically whether I want it to or not. It's often something that happens because I've chosen to let it happen (or at least not made a deliberate choice to prevent it.) I know my daughter doesn't like it when I'm angry, and I know that if she sees that something she's done has made me angry there's a good chance she'll be less likely to do that thing again. So I know my anger can act as a punishment, and I know I can (usually) hide my anger if I feel I ought to. If I don't hide it, that's an awful lot like making a deliberate decision to punish, isn't it?
post #171 of 188
I read about the dessert and toys thing and had a modification idea there--If the goal is to get the toys picked up eventually either on command or within a time frame, then dessert could be an okay thing, but only if used in a "time" context, such as "dessert will be ready in five minutes. If you have the toys picked up, you may have some then." If the kid doesn't get the toys up, then misses the time of dessert "oh, I see that the toys are put away, but it is too far past dessert time now. The next time we have a dessert opportunity I hope you might take it sooner", not the food itself. Food reinforcers aren't really good for kids anyway, as they set up conditions for behavior that involve too many rewards and treats. I like something more like this for special treats "I just noticed that you put your toys away exactly how I asked you to! We'll have enough time for a surprise now! Want to have some jello with me?" as opposed to setting it up as a hoped-for consequence. (like a dangling carrot--it's coercion--not too effective in the long run).
post #172 of 188
Hey, everyone At the top of the forum, there is a sticky called "Alternatives to Punishment' Here is the stickied list, as written by Peggy O'Mara, owner and publisher of Mothering Magazine:

Quote:
Use positive reinforcement.

Create a positive environment.

Say yes as much as possible.

Save no for the important things.

Use natural consequences.

Use logical consequences.

Use restitution.

Leave it up to your child.

Compromise.

State your expectations, and get out of the way.

Give specific instructions.

Give a reason.

Offer help.

Give a choice.

Redirect your child.

Remove your child.

Make positive statements.

Give in occasionally.

Give your child time to agree.

Simply insist.

Make rules.

Ignore some behavior.

Avoid nagging and threats.

Distract your child.

Use humor.

Make it a game.

Be willing to admit your mistakes.

Stop and think before you act.

Don't make a big fuss over little things.

Stick to routines.

Don't hurry your children too much.

Get to the root of the problem.

Correct one behavior at a time.

Give yourselves time.

Use the golden rule.

Model appropriate behavior.

Think of your child as an equal.

Always keep your love for your child in mind.
post #173 of 188
Quote:
Originally Posted by frenchie View Post
I'm totally confused by this example. Perhaps both scenarios aren't connected?
How would you resolve scenario number one? My son knows that it's his responsability to put his toys back when he's done. If he doesn't, said toy is confiscated for a few days. I'd like to find an alternative...but I just can't think of a better way to appraoch the situation.
I'm not the person who gave the examples in question, but here's my take on it. I've realized that the majority of parents seem to expect their kids to behave better than adults. In all honesty, *I* don't always put my stuff back when I'm done with it. I've been trying to work on remembering that when I see that my kids have left their toys out. One thing that we do at our house is realize that part of being a family (or our family, anyways) is picking up after each other once in a while. If I've left my school books out on the table and ds and dd want to play a board game they'll usually put them away and mention something along the lines of "mom, your books were on the table so we put them in your bag". If I come across Rescue Heros in the middle of my living room floor I'll generally pick them up and say something similar. However, if the mess is sizable (we do not have limit on how many toys are allowed out), I do expect that they will be cleaning it up. If in the scenario with the board game they came to the table and it was covered in dishes and flour and a huge mess left over from me baking something they probably wouldn't be too eager to pick it up themselves, and I'd be fine with them coming to me and asking me to take care of it so that they could use the table.

Now, if the lego village that they've built for the above mentioned Rescue Heros is covering every surface in the living room and there is a reason that the living room has to be cleaned up asap (company or bedtime - none of us like getting up to a mess), and they are not cleaning it up themselves, then I will do it for them, but chances are I'll just take a big trash bag, dump it all in there and stick in in a closet to be dealt with when I have more time. I don't think that is punishment, however I do think it is a consequence. It seems to me to be quite logical. But someone has to deal with the mess in the trash bag. I'm fine with being that someone - if they're fine with it being on my timeline.

Quote:
Originally Posted by frenchie View Post
For the second scenario, I'm assuming we're talking about a child throwing a toy. I've appraoched this sitaution with my son a little differently. Toy flies across the room. I pick it up and hand it back, letting him know that throwing toys is harmful to others, and that it's not acceptable in our house. Toy flies across the room again. I pick up the toy and before handing it back to Kai, I let him know that if he throws it once more, it will be taken away. I then show him how to play with the toy on the floor. Toy flies across the room again, toy is taken away. I then remind him that I told him what would happen, and that the toy is being taken away until he can play with it properly. This has worked for Kai.

Now, the above example is a far cry from what my mom would've done to me as a little one. I feel that I made a good choice, considering the example I had to go by. What would you have done differently in my example?

I am eager to learn other alternatives.

I'm not even going to say what my mom would have done to me as a little one, lol. What I do here for my older two who are plenty old enough (based not on their chronological age, but their developmental level...just a disclaimer, I know all kids are different) to know that throwing toys is a no go there are a couple of ways I might handle it. It gets back to the underlying reason. If they're throwing the toy because they're just too wound up, then I strongly suggest that they head outside for a game of ball. It might go something like this :

me : Hey, how about some outside play? I'll get the kick balls...
ds :no, that's ok. I'll just stay in.
me : you sure? You seem to me like you're bursting with energy. I'm going to need for you to either burn it by throwing things outside, or find a way to control it inside. You know throwing things inside is totally not cool.

...and he either goes outside or moves on to another activity. If it's thrown in anger I'll suggest some cooling down time and say something like "dd, I know ds is teasing you, but it's still not ok to throw anything at him. I think you should go take some time and come back when you've got it under control". And she'll either get it together or go up to her room for however long (sometimes seconds, sometimes an hour) and come down when she's ready to deal with him.

There are also certain toys that they just can't seem to not throw. These are outside toys and are kept out of regular toys...for outside use only. Any toy that is perpetually thrown ends up in this container.

With my youngest...I know he understands about the throwing in the house thing, but he's still young and impulsive. I generally just remind him and/or redirect him and if it gets to be an issue the toy gets a time out worded something like "wow, that toy really wants to be thrown! Let's put it up until it can calm down" and depending on his reaction it may be followed by a "hey! Look! A chipmunk!" :

Acutally, these things tend to work really well.

I'll be interested to see what other people would do...
post #174 of 188
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post #175 of 188
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by frenchie View Post
How would you resolve scenario number one? My son knows that it's his responsability to put his toys back when he's done. If he doesn't, said toy is confiscated for a few days.
Well, I confess I wouldn't give a 4 year old that responsibility. I don't think they are mature enough, so I would predict that the only way I could get it to work would be to force the issue. So I don't have such a rule.

In our house the kids are allowed to make as much mess as they want in their room. What is happening lately (as they just got their own room this past Xmas) is that the mess gets to the point where they can't play or find things. DD will come out and tell me this, and then we'll talk about why that is and that when you tidy up it makes it easier to not lose things. Then I'll offer to help her clean up her room and she joins me with gusto. It's slowly sinking in but I just don't think she's going to get this to the point of being proactive about it until she is much older.

As regards messes outside the bedroom, it's usually not a problem. Before they had a room the toys lived all around the house and when it got to be cleanup time we made a game of it. Or I'd wait until they wanted to move on to the next activity (one that required my assistance to initiate) and I'd say "okay, but we need to put this stuff away first" and it's done quite happily. I never force them to help. If they should refuse to help I might clean it up and tell them that I felt it was unfair that I had to clean up their mess all by myself. Or I might just continue with what I'm doing and say "I'd be happy to do X but first we need to clean up that puzzle". This is, I admit, a bit more controlling but fortunately it is rare that it gets to this. Hey, sometimes my house is a mess and I just don't feel like cleaning it at that moment. I would be pi$$ed if my DH tried to coerce me into doing it, lol!

Quote:
Toy flies across the room. I pick it up and hand it back, letting him know that throwing toys is harmful to others, and that it's not acceptable in our house. Toy flies across the room again. I pick up the toy and before handing it back to Kai, I let him know that if he throws it once more, it will be taken away.
Again my perspective is a bit different. I think that expecting him to stop just b/c you said so is setting him up to fail. I don't know a single 3 or 4 year old worth their salt who would stop something just b/c an adult told them to, lol. I don't want obedience, I want them thinking of solutions...so what I would do is maybe go over to the child and say "hey, I'm concerned that someone is going to get hurt. would you like to throw [some soft toy somewhere safe]?" or ask I'd ask him for suggestions. If it's obvious he is having a really hard time letting go of whatever play he's immersed himself in, I would say "we need to find a solution here or we'll have to find something different for you to play with" and I may eventually indeed have to remove the toy. If I did that, I would try to immediately find something else for him to do, and later if he asked for the toy I would happily give it back. I strive to convey a kind attitude of "this sucks, I know, but it's just not safe otherwise".

However, if you caught me on a bad day I'd say "hey, this toy is not for throwing!!" and I'd shove it up on a shelf!
post #176 of 188
Quote:
Originally Posted by Piglet68 View Post
However, if you caught me on a bad day I'd say "hey, this toy is not for throwing!!" and I'd shove it up on a shelf!
If we're going to start bringing up bad days I think I'll back out of this discussion right now

post #177 of 188
Quote:
Originally Posted by 3lilmonsters View Post
If we're going to start bringing up bad days I think I'll back out of this discussion right now

no kidding
post #178 of 188
Quote:
Originally Posted by Deva33mommy View Post
Which sort of begs the question- which definition really is more useful in discussions like this? the technical one, or the commonly used one? (I'm honestly wondering this, I'm totally not being snarky!)
I used to be firmly convinced that the technical definition was more useful. Now I'm not quite so sure. If it really doesn't correspond to the way most people think of punishment, maybe it's not helpful. If I want to talk about whether expressing natural emotions can be harmful in the same ways that time outs for disobedience can be harmful, maybe I should say just that, instead of saying I think expressing natural emotions can actually be considered a punishment. Maybe it's too confusing to apply the word "punishment" to something that just doesn't feel like a punishment to most people. (I used to think everyone would instantly recognize and agree that a particular thing was really a punishment, once I pointed it out. But I eventually realized I was dead wrong about that.)
post #179 of 188
Quote:
Originally Posted by Daffodil View Post
I used to be firmly convinced that the technical definition was more useful. Now I'm not quite so sure. If it really doesn't correspond to the way most people think of punishment, maybe it's not helpful. If I want to talk about whether expressing natural emotions can be harmful in the same ways that time outs for disobedience can be harmful, maybe I should say just that, instead of saying I think expressing natural emotions can actually be considered a punishment. Maybe it's too confusing to apply the word "punishment" to something that just doesn't feel like a punishment to most people. (I used to think everyone would instantly recognize and agree that a particular thing was really a punishment, once I pointed it out. But I eventually realized I was dead wrong about that.)
This is exactly where I'm at, too, only I couldn't have written it so clearly and precisely.

But its still hard to find a definition of punishment that we all agree on. It seems that we all find the word "punishment" so aversive that we tend to keep redefining our own parenting behaviors so that we don't have to call our actions punishment.

Maybe it would make more sense to title this thread: "Negative consequences - are they ever necessary?"
post #180 of 188
Quote:
Originally Posted by BellinghamCrunchie View Post
But its still hard to find a definition of punishment that we all agree on. It seems that we all find the word "punishment" so aversive that we tend to keep redefining our own parenting behaviors so that we don't have to call our actions punishment.
But I think it's more than that. I think that the word punishment is so aversive, because most people think of it in terms of the MW definition, which many of us would say is not the ideal way to discipline.
If people heard "punishment" and thought of the technical term, it wouldn't be aversive, because we'd all know that it also referred to things that we think are good ways to discipline.

Did we agree on using the word "penalty" to refer to unrelated consequences that are intended to change behavior? I have no problem clarifying "I don't punish" with "punishments that are used as a penalty" or something like that.

And thanks to this discussion, I am thinking about the technical use of the term. And it does make sense, but it's a bit of a difficult transition, just because of how widely punishment=penalty is used.
But I do see how what REALLY matters is how the child perceives it.

Those of you who think of punishment in terms of the technical definition- do you have a background in psychology or something related?
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