Do you "punish" your child? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 154 Old 08-04-2005, 01:14 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I was watching Malcolm in the Middle a little while ago (I love that show) and the boys did something bad (can't remember what).

Of course, the parents (Lois and Hal) had to think up a punishment for them.

For some reason, that rubbed me the wrong way. Will "punishing" my child really help them to behave better? Will it really help them when they get out in the real world?

Yet, if I don't have "punishments", what do I do when DS (or future kids) does something really bad - like hit the dog?

Right now he's not old enough to understand the "punishment" concept anyway, but I would like to be prepared.

Please talk to me about what you do when your child does something you don't want them to, and why you do it that way.

I apologize if this is one of those things that has been covered a million times : I've lurked in this forum occasionally and haven't seen it talked about that much, at least not directly.
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#2 of 154 Old 08-04-2005, 01:47 PM
 
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I've been thinking about this some lately and reading Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn. First off, in the book he talks about why punishment doesn't work. Haim Ginott says "Misbehavior and punishment are not opposites that cancel each other; on the contrary, they breed and reinforce each other." Punishment doesn't work because it is not fun for the punished. The punished person feels isolated and angry, but probably not much like changing their behavior. If anything, they're given further reason to act out or to simply be more devious and sneaky and manipulative about it. Lots of the things we punish children for we would never punish an adult for. It's better to try to model behavior and influence children than to punish them. Punishment is just manipulation.

So what I do. First, I try to avoid as much as possible the things that make my child act out. I try to avoid taking my 3yo to the grocery store, for example, because he just wants to run around and act like crazy and it's too much trouble for me, especially now with a new baby. I try to ward off negative behavior by making sure that there are lots of things that he can do around and by making sure he doesn't get overtired or hungry.

Second, instead of punishing, I explain, or redirect or offer choices. So with things that I simply don't want him to do like make a mess, I try to offer a different way of accomplishing the same thing. So if he's throwing crayons around, first I stop him physically. Then I ask him to help me pick the crayons up and maybe throw them in the pencil bag we keep them in. We do this with blocks too. Throw them into their storage container. Or give him a ball to throw around. The whole time, I explain why we're doing it. So we don't throw crayons because it makes a mess for mommy to clean up, which I don't like to have to do and we could lose them or break them and he won't be able to use them to color anymore. But we can throw this ball back and forth to each other, or he can throw it and chase it... etc.

With things that are truly off-limits like hitting the dog, I stop him physically from hitting the dog, explain why it's not okay and find something else for him to do or encourage him to pet the dog nicely.

Sometimes it's hard to have the patience required to do all this, and I'm not always successful, but I'd rather do it this way than suffer the long-term consequences of punishing. It's hard to see the short term benefits as well, but I know that he won't likely be exhibiting these undesirable behaviors later on and I try to appreciate that he is not the sum of his behavior. Often, there is a reason behind what he does and it's up to me to figure out what that is rather than simply punishing the symptom.

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#3 of 154 Old 08-04-2005, 01:51 PM
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And you see where punishment gets Malcom's parents.

The boys just come up with more devious and imaginitive ways to do whatever misbehaviour they want to do, fully knowing it's wrong for them to do it.
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#4 of 154 Old 08-04-2005, 02:05 PM
 
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First - anna kiss, I love you You put it in such great way

Second - I totally see what you are saying Kristi. The word "punishment" rubs me the wrong way too. It's like I am drill sergeant or something "Give me 20 right now!" :LOL I am not that to my kids.

I often compare how *I* would feel if my DH was to start "thinking up" punishments for me, yk : ?

I am not an angel myself and do stuff that even by a stretch of imagination can not be considered "good" : I re-think it later, sometimes with the help of other people, regret that I did what I did and TRY not to repeat it again.

Not always can I not repeat it :

So, to answer your question about what to do "if"... it depends on many things - DC age, circumstances, DC's mood, reasons behind the action.

Basically - access the situation and get to the root of it. Is he/she tired? Does he/she not know any better? Is he/she striving for attention? and so on.
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#5 of 154 Old 08-04-2005, 02:24 PM
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I guess some of the things I do may look like punishment, but I really try hard to think of natural consequences instead. I find they are much more effective than just a punishment. If one of the kids hits or does something violent to their siblings or the dog, for example, that usually gets a time out (occasionally in the corner if I've lost my patience). My reasoning is that, if they hit, they need to be separated for a little bit. This gives me time to see to the injured party, the injured to feel like they are being protected, and for the aggressor to have a few moments to reflect on what they did, as well as to calm themselves down enough so they have control over themselves. Obviously, this works really only on my older daughter right now. Emily is only 19 months, so a bit young for this kind of discipline. Although, if she is the aggressor (and she usually is, frankly), I will separate them for a time.


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#6 of 154 Old 08-04-2005, 02:34 PM
 
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That's one of the reason we love MITM. The parents are so totally clueless.

I can only think of one punishment- and that was when I sent a 10 yr old to his room for the evening. We did it because we could not get creative that night. I have no idea what the heck we were thinking, really.

Otherwise, no, I can't think of any other punishments. I can't even think of a time my kids did anything really 'bad', either. We haven't had any stealing or fighting or anything like that. I can't even think of any big lies. (Maybe my 16 yr old can...lol but I've never caught him in one).

Oh, wait, one time i did blow up over finding porn on the family computer. I ranted about respect and how there was not going to be any treating humans as objects in *this* family. etc. We said no computer for a few days until Dad and I figure out what we''re going to do about this. But i didn't think of it as punishment...but i suppose it was.
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#7 of 154 Old 08-04-2005, 02:34 PM
 
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Great responses so far!
Quote:
Yet, if I don't have "punishments", what do I do when DS (or future kids) does something really bad - like hit the dog?
Why do you think your DS would hit the dog? Because he is mean and wants to hurt the dog? Obviously not. Because he doesn't understand that hitting hurts the dog. Why would you punish someone for not understanding? Our goal as parent is to help them learn. Punishments take the focus off of the lesson to be learned, promote negative labeling ("naughty"), and set up an adversarial relationship.
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#8 of 154 Old 08-04-2005, 02:42 PM
 
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>> I really try hard to think of natural consequences instead. <<

If you have to think about it, it's not a natural consequence.

If you have to work really hard at it, it's not even a logical consequence.

jump in the puddle > get wet feet is an example of a natural consequence.

anything that requires parental intervention... isn't.
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#9 of 154 Old 08-04-2005, 02:50 PM
 
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I avoid punishments. I think that other forms of learning are preferable. I also have a 13 year old and I have learned from experience that punishments do not inspire good behavior.
However I would not say that I "never" punish. Sometimes I need to punish just to remove from a situation or to really enforce the severity of the situation.
For example, punishing my daughter for being late coming home from her friends didnt help one bit. I could punish her till the cows came home and she just wouldnt pay attention to the time.
HOwever when she was 13 and purposely disobeyed by taking the city bus to a friends house after school when she was told no and that she must come home. I DID punish her because her safety was at issue and if I could not trust her to use her independance wisely, I couldnt allow her to have it.
Also since I believe discipline is about learning, I think punishment is not called for if the behavior has not yet been mastered.
However if my child shows they have mastered the proper behavior and they exhibit it anyway. I might also to a time out with my 3 year old.
But here is an example. WHen he was a young toddler, as toddlers do, he threw food. I told him repeatedly that we do not throw food and i had him help me clean up. Eventually he stopped throwing food with no punishments needed. HOwever when he ws 2 1/2 he started throwing food again because his younger brother was now 1 and was throwing food. He had already shown the ability to control himself. He had already internalized the expectation that food was not to be thrown. Reminding him and having him help clean up did not have the effect of convincing him that it was important to me that he continue to follow the rule. This was the first time I ever gave him time out. It did work very quickly. BUt time out was NOT the primary learning tool.

So do I punish? Occasionally. But I do not think it is useful as the first line of defense in a parents discipline tool kit and should only be used very sparingly. (and when the child is truly known to be capable )
I do not think punishment is an effective learning tool overall.
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#10 of 154 Old 08-04-2005, 02:56 PM
 
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Personally, I do not feel that punitive damage in any form is honoring and respecting the individual personage of my children, so I don't do it. Most of the time, it's just not worth it. Without experience, they will never learn.

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#11 of 154 Old 08-04-2005, 04:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for your responses! They have really gotten me thinking.

Quote:
Originally Posted by momoffour
Great responses so far! Why do you think your DS would hit the dog? Because he is mean and wants to hurt the dog? Obviously not. Because he doesn't understand that hitting hurts the dog. Why would you punish someone for not understanding? Our goal as parent is to help them learn. Punishments take the focus off of the lesson to be learned, promote negative labeling ("naughty"), and set up an adversarial relationship.
Wow, this really puts is clearly! Thank you!
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#12 of 154 Old 08-04-2005, 04:14 PM
 
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If the child already knows not to hit the dog and does it anyway. What then?
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#13 of 154 Old 08-04-2005, 04:18 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johub
If the child already knows not to hit the dog and does it anyway. What then?
Most children need to relearn the same thing over & over, especially toddlers. If it was a teenager doing this, I might wonder if they didn't have other psychological issues, but for small children, it's completely normal behavior to find this really entertaining.

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#14 of 154 Old 08-04-2005, 04:35 PM
 
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Impulse control plays a factor, too. Just as I *know* I shouldn't eat that whole bag of M&Ms sitting on my counter, well....... :LOL

And to answer the OP, no we don't punish.

Check out naturalchild website for some really good articles on why punishmnent doesn't work.
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#15 of 154 Old 08-04-2005, 04:46 PM
 
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Yes, and the fact that it is so entertaining just MIGHt be powerful enough to make them want to do it even if they know that it hurts the dog and they shouldnt.
THe fact that children sometimes do things that they know they shouldnt. (even if we assume they forgot, a reminder should suffice, but if they do it again after the reminder I think you can be reasonably certain the child is actively choosing not to obey) ANd just for the sake of doing them.
This is where the argument that all misbehavior is motivated by underlying issues falls apart.
SOme things kids just shouldn't do is just FUN, and they will continue to want to do it even after they know mom doesnt want them to.
I really do not think punishment is a good educating tool. And I would never use punishment as a primary tool with discipline.
However I do think that there are times when just teaching your child what you expect, reminding them and redirecting them , and addressing underlying issues is not sufficient.
I do not think it is always entirely inappropriate to back up your rules with the possibility of punishment.
I only hope that everythign I try first works well enough that I never have to resort to it.
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#16 of 154 Old 08-04-2005, 04:55 PM
 
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But backing up your rules with the possibility of punishment simply teaches children that "might makes right". It doesn't teach anything except "because I said so and if not, I'll make you hurt [emotionally]".

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#17 of 154 Old 08-04-2005, 05:01 PM
 
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Hitting may teach "might makes right" but all punishment is not equivalent to spanking or yelling.
I have heard that suggested and I simply do not believe it. Children expect us as their parents to show them limits. They look up to us and expect us to help them learn. If I refused to show my child that I was still in control ofthe situation, when he or she feels out of control I would be letting them down.
It isnt might makes right. It is that I will help you learn to control yourself until you are able to do it on your own. Yes I am bigger, but I am also older and wiser and have their best interests in heart. It isnt about size or physical power (Might) at all.
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#18 of 154 Old 08-04-2005, 05:06 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johub
Hitting may teach "might makes right" but all punishment is not equivalent to spanking or yelling.
I have heard that suggested and I simply do not believe it. Children expect us as their parents to show them limits. They look up to us and expect us to help them learn. If I refused to show my child that I was still in control ofthe situation, when he or she feels out of control I would be letting them down.
It isnt might makes right. It is that I will help you learn to control yourself until you are able to do it on your own. Yes I am bigger, but I am also older and wiser and have their best interests in heart. It isnt about size or physical power (Might) at all.
Joline
Showing limits, punishing, and controlling are not the same things.

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#19 of 154 Old 08-04-2005, 05:50 PM
 
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johub wrote:Yes, and the fact that it is so entertaining just MIGHt be powerful enough to make them want to do it even if they know that it hurts the dog and they shouldnt.
Do you think so? A very young child might take a lot of repition to understand they are hurting. The child might even be too young develpmentally to understand they are causing pain. Or maybe our perception is off and the hitting is not actually hurting the dog at all (why is the dog not running away?). But if an older child was hurting an animal for fun I would have them psychologically evaluated. I just don't think it would be normal to hurt an animal for fun.
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#20 of 154 Old 08-04-2005, 05:56 PM
 
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Johub, may be if you gave an example of the punishments you use, it would make it clearer.

What do you consider punishment for your DC?
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#21 of 154 Old 08-04-2005, 05:59 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bec
I guess some of the things I do may look like punishment, but I really try hard to think of natural consequences instead. I find they are much more effective than just a punishment. If one of the kids hits or does something violent to their siblings or the dog, for example, that usually gets a time out (occasionally in the corner if I've lost my patience.
Bec
I have to agree with Silliest that in my book this isn't natural consequences. I struggled with this myself on another list. My DD kept wanting to wear underpants, but she would not go to the bathroom even when asked and reminded and so would end up wetting her pants. Then I was minded to put her in a pull-up as the "natural consequence" of wetting her underpants. I wasn't trying to punish or shame her or anything. I just wasn't minded to keep her in underwear if she didn't want to use the bathroom. And somehiow I *thought* that was a "natural consequence."

Thankfully, someone set me straight and said the natural consequences of wetting your pants are wet underwear. And perhaps I could do the same thing for my daughter as I might do for myself if I wet my pants due to sneeze or something (we're all mothers here, right?), and help her get dry underwear. It really clarified the issue for me.

Bec, I'm sure you know this already and it's probably just the writing that's unclear. But since this is a "newbie" kind of discussion and I didn't want anyone else to get the wrong impression of "natural consequences."

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#22 of 154 Old 08-04-2005, 06:20 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johub
Hitting may teach "might makes right" but all punishment is not equivalent to spanking or yelling.
I have heard that suggested and I simply do not believe it. Children expect us as their parents to show them limits. They look up to us and expect us to help them learn. If I refused to show my child that I was still in control ofthe situation, when he or she feels out of control I would be letting them down.
It isnt might makes right. It is that I will help you learn to control yourself until you are able to do it on your own. Yes I am bigger, but I am also older and wiser and have their best interests in heart. It isnt about size or physical power (Might) at all.
Joline
Allow me to quote from Unconditional Parenting directly, as it's more succinct than I would be:
Quote:
Announcing how we plan to punish children ("Remember, if you do x then I'll do y to you") may salve our conscience because we gave them fair warning, but all we've really done is threaten them. We've told them in advance exactly how we'll make them suffer if they fail to obey. This communicates a message of distrust ("I don't think you'll do the right thing without fear of punishment"), leads kids to think of themselves as complying for extrinsic reasons, and emphasizes their powerlessness.
But perhaps, as irinam suggested, I'm not understanding you fully when you talk about punishments...

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#23 of 154 Old 08-04-2005, 06:54 PM
 
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We really try in our house to make discipline less about punishment and more about teamwork or cooperation. We don't "punish" because that doesn't fit with our teamwork approach. I do think that kids should understand that sometimes there are consequences for certain actions or behaviors, but I try very hard to make that not about me vs. them, just about How It Is. Today in the grocery store 3.5 yo DD wanted to climb all over the cart, jump on and off, etc. I reminded her that this was not how we do things because it isn't safe, and that if she wanted to ride she needed to stay safe and if she couldn't manage that then she would have to walk. But is was about safety, not about I Told You Three Times and Now You Will Walk Because I Said So.

When it comes to things like hitting the dog, which we deal with on a regular basis, at this point our 3.5 yo knows that this is not OK. She does it anyway from time to time, out of frustration or excitement, and we remind her that people don't hit dogs because it hurts them, and if she can't play nicely with the dog then we will have to put the dog outside or in the kitchen. I think it is usually pretty easy to redirect, as long as I pay attention.

I was having a really hard time when she was an early three and her sister was 6 months, and the tantrums would usually end up with both of us totally melted down. I felt like I was yelling a lot and the thing that really helped me was to sit quietly (alone after they were in bed and with a glass of wine) and really think about what my role is as a parent. When I started thinking of myself as a Senior Team Member (or some other like title, it's a thought more than a position LOL) was when I started taking her behavior less personally and looking at things from a What's Going to Help Her Now point of view.

OK now I am just rambling but hey I'm not perfect yet
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#24 of 154 Old 08-04-2005, 07:22 PM
 
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I don't punish my kid.

(sorry for not offering anything else I'm mostly just weighing in and also, subscribign so I can watch this discussion)
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#25 of 154 Old 08-04-2005, 07:45 PM
 
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Here is an example of how I have used punishment and how and why I thought it was appropriate. I believe I already mentioned it in this thread (but it might have been another)
My ds1 is now 3 years old. WHen he was 1 he used to throw his food on the floor as all 1 year olds do. I tolerated this behavior for a while because I believed it was developmentally appropriate and I felt that a part of learning to eat and self feed is learning about textures etc. . . But as he matured I could see it was time to help him learn more acceptable "manners" so to speak and that food was not for throwing. I started by reminding him that we do not throw food. And whenever I saw him throw food I would assume he was done and remove his plate and get him down and have him help me clean up. I did this routinely and Did not consider it punishment at all because in my opinion the throwing was his way of telling me he was done. As he learned to say "all done" and then have his plate removed and his hands washed. and as he learned that if he threw food on the floor he would have to clean it up, he stopped throwing food. This "behavior" issues was handled entirely without punishment because my goal wasa to teach him it is not proper to throw food. And as I said, I do not believe that punishment is an effective learning tool at all.
When he was 2 1/2 his younger brother reached the same food throwing state he had previously been in. Tristan must have remembered how fun it was, or maybe just wanted to play with is brother or whatever, but he had already proven to me that he knew he was not supposed to throw food, he also had the ability to control his behavior (as he had not done it in quite some time). So I started out in the same way I had done before, I gently reminded him and had him help clean up, but these tools were ineffective. He had already learned that throwing food was not ok. He already knew that thrown food had to be cleaned up. And I continued to remind and walk him through cleanups and he continued with the behavior.
Finally, convinced that he Knew what he was doing was unacceptable but that he was choosing to do it anyway I gave him his first timeout. Altogether I gave him 3 timeouts. AFter the third time he no longer threw food. He did not cry or protest or feel rejected going to timeout. He handled it matter of factly. In fact if I told him he could come back to the table he would remind me that he had not heard the bell yet.
Timeout was not (nor would it be) my method to teach my child anything. But already knowing what is expected and having the ability to do what is expected, I think it can serve as a reminder that he is expected to live up to his abilities.
As a rule I do think that behaviorism and punishment is overused on children and their emotional needs and developmental abilities must always be taken into consideration regarding any behavor which may need to be changed.
But I do reject the idea that it is always wrong or misuse of power to use any sort of punishment (no matter how gentle).
I also reject the idea that a child who have a very strong attached relationship with his parents is going to feel rejected or abandoned as a result of being asked to sit in timeout for 2 minutes.

And as for the dog analogy, just because a child knows intellectually that hitting a dog "hurts" the dog and mom says "no" does not mean a child has a psychological problem if he continues to do it. It just means he has not gained sufficient impulse control to resist the temptation (perhaps the dog makes a funny noise, or yelps or just feels interesting when the child hits.) I am not assuming the dog is being maliciously tortured to purposely cause him pain. If a child hit a dog to purposely cause him pain that woudl be different. But knowing it isnt nice and doing it anyway doesnt make a sociopath. It just makes a normal child who needs a little extra help with impulse control.

Joline
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#26 of 154 Old 08-04-2005, 07:59 PM
 
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Announcing how we plan to punish children ("Remember, if you do x then I'll do y to you") may salve our conscience because we gave them fair warning, but all we've really done is threaten them. We've told them in advance exactly how we'll make them suffer if they fail to obey. This communicates a message of distrust ("I don't think you'll do the right thing without fear of punishment"), leads kids to think of themselves as complying for extrinsic reasons, and emphasizes their powerlessness

I am a fan of a lot of what Alfie Kohn has to say, but I do not really think his perception of what it means to be a child in this situation is the only way.
For example to tell a child that if they contiinue to do X, Y is going to happen, it gives the child a choice. "You can choose to control yourself, but if you dont I am going to have to help you."
I really dont believe in parenting on the couch with threats, which is what I think he is implying. The above statement is reminiscent of "Dont make me turn this car around. . ."
However, knowing consequences doesnt in my opinion emphasize the childs powerlessness. It reminds the child that they are powerful enough to choose their own future. It is empowering to be able to predict the consequences of their actions with accuracy.
I think that a child is more likely to feel insecure when he does not feel capable of controlling his own actions and there is nobody there to be his safety net and help him stop himself.
In fact I will go so far as to say I have actually seen my daughter practically BEG for punishment. Growing up is very hard to do. At about the time she was turning 13 I was giving her a lot of freedom and benefit of the doubt. I am afraid it was more freedom that she was prepared to handle. She ended up getting in big trouble, and you can hardly imagine the relief on her face when I told her she was grounded. Acting out was her way of begging me to show her that she was not expected to be 100% responsible for herself yet and that I was still there to guide her. Would you believe she was happier during the time she was grounded than she had been in the preceeding weeks when she was constantly pulled in different directions by friends and different influences?
I also do not punish my oldest for your run of the mill stuff. But I would not leave punishment out of my parenting toolkit entirely.
Joline
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#27 of 154 Old 08-04-2005, 08:19 PM
 
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No we do not punish. Punishment creates shame, anger, frustration, and fosters an environment for sneaky stuff and lying. I feel it creates a cycle that breeds the very behavior we trying to get rid of. To me it looks something like this:

Undesirable behavior>punishment>anger in & embarassment of child=dishonesty about undesirable behavior should it come up again=punishment and so on. Also, punishment doesn't teach how to stop doing XYZ, or explain why XYZ isn't appropriate to do. I also feel punishment sets the scene for doing the something "because mom said so" or "because I have to or I will get in trouble." rather than because the child understands for themselves why or why not to do something.

We model the kind of behavior we like, we discuss and discuss and discuss, and we highly encourage the "golden rule" (treat others as you'd like them to treat you).

"The true measure of a man is how he treats a man who can do him absolutely no good."
peace.gif  Embrace the learning that is happening within the things that are actually happening!    
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#28 of 154 Old 08-04-2005, 08:58 PM
 
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No, I don't punish my child. (He's only 2.5, so part of me feels like I should add "yet," but I don't plan to ever punish him.)

Carrie
Mama to Nate (11/02) and due 4/12/11
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#29 of 154 Old 08-04-2005, 09:17 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johub
I also reject the idea that a child who have a very strong attached relationship with his parents is going to feel rejected or abandoned as a result of being asked to sit in timeout for 2 minutes.
Joline, this was a really thoughtful post. I apprecate it. I'm not sure I would have handled it the same way, but I agree that you probably did little or no damage to your relationship with your child in the situation as you described it. A lot depends on the child's temperament, as well.

As the mother of older children, I see a serious danger in overuse of punishment or any sort of consequence. I think it's a bad idea to get in the habit of using consequences as a regular parenting tool because your relationship comes to be defined in terms of your greater power.

In the very near future, I will not be able to impose my will on my oldest by any means. We've all seen how effective it is to ground a teenager. It causes disconnection, anger and sneaking. If I rely on rewards/punishments for 10-12 years, how will I suddenly be able to switch gears and expect him to relate to me in cooperative terms?

Unconditional Parenting and Hold on to Your Kids are two books that have really confirmed what my gut has always said: the hard work of connecting with kids and disciplining without relying on parental power is worth it.

Now more than ever, I want my son to feel he can be honest with us without fear of "consequences" and that he can trust our advice is not an attempt to manipulate him but is simply our genuine wish for his happiness.
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#30 of 154 Old 08-04-2005, 09:24 PM
 
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I just had a long talk with my DH about this. I don't think that punishing your child at all, ever is going to leave serious lasting effects, but I don't think that punishing accomplishes what needs to be accomplished. As my DH put it, punishment is a missed opportunity for motivation.

anna kiss partner to jon radical mama to aleks (8/02) and bastian (5/05)
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