Lesson 9 - The Reasons Punishment Doesn't Work

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First, let's define punishment as any artificially created consequence for a given behavior. (This definition would then include any spanking, grounding, sending to the bedroom, removal of privileges, withholding of allowance, standing in the corner, scolding, etc.)

Punishment guarantees a push-back response. A pushback response is the natural human response that we all have when we are asked to change our behavior in almost any way. It is very much like inertia; when in motion we tend to want to stay in motion and when at rest we want to stay at rest. The moment that you ask a human to change the way that they are acting, their first response is to push back on that request. We never need a reason to push back; we all just do it! Kids do it too.

  1. Punishment removes the focus, of both the "punisher" and "punishee," from the behavior in question. When a parent resorts to punishment both the parent and the child begin to pay attention to the punishment and its fairness and being sure that it enforced. This allows the child to stop thinking about the decision process that brought about the negative behavior in the first place. Next, the child is not engaged in the process of creating a thought process that will bring about better outcomes next time.
     
  2. Punishment focuses anger on the "punisher." When we resort to punishment it gives children someone to be mad at. And, when they are mad they do not have to face their own behavior because anger takes over and interrupts responsible thought. "I hate my mom and dad," is rarely the idea we wish to have in the head of one of our children but it is often there as a result of punishment.
     
  3. Punishment induced behavior "extinguishes" rapidly. In the absence of punishment, the negative behavior returns. "Mom is not around so I'll see what I can get away with." Behavior that has been shaped by punishment will disappear soon after the punishment has disappeared simply because the child has not been included in the reasoning and personal profitability in the desired behavior.
     
  4. Punishment traps the "punisher" into maintaining the punishment schedule. "You made the rules, now you must enforce them." When we use punishment we build a me verses you atmosphere. The goal should be to let the natural negative consequences do the enforcing. Often when you introduce punishment the kid then turns it into a game of seeing how much they can get away with without you catching them.
     
  5. Punishment does not teach accountability. The "punisher" is responsible to see that behavior changes. If you use punishment, by your actions you have accepted responsibility for your child's behavior. By using punishment you accept the responsibility for your child's behavior so then he/she will have to learn to be accountable outside of your influence, and the outside world is a tough teacher!
     
  6. Most of all, punishment denies a child the right to experience the real consequence of their actions. The reward for good performance is... good performance. Seldom is it necessary for us to provide the reward, and the same is true for punishment. What we need to do is to point out the negative consequences inherent in their negative behavior, we do not need to create new ones. We can serve as a big help to our children if we help them to foresee some of the potential problems and natural consequences of some of their possible choices, and let them see that the punishment for poor performance is... poor performance! 

    There are a couple of situations where it is unreasonable to let children run into the natural consequences of poor performance. As we said before, if it is illegal, immoral, or life threatening then we must act as the adult in their world and step in to prevent major injury, incarceration, or violation of society's rules of decency.

The punishment for poor performance is… poor performance!

"It is not the duty of adults to create new punishments, but rather to point out the negative consequences inherent in the child's’ negative actions… and most importantly, to suggest positive alternatives."



Assignment Sheet – Lesson 9

  • Parents will identify a situation where they normally would have resorted to punishment as a tool to control each of their children's behaviors.

  • Then, the parent, for each behavior,  will devise another strategy, other than using punishment that helps the child to focus on the natural and real consequences of their action. In devising the new strategy please refer back to the previously learned techniques discussed earlier in this course.

  • Next, parents should then attempt to help the child to pick a substitute behavior to use in that situation that would bring about a much more appealing and rewarding outcome.

  • Finally, the parent will make note of the success of this alternative method of achieving the desired behavior without resorting to punishment.

 

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