Where did we ever get the crazy idea that children will do better if we first make them feel worse? Please absorb that statement. It doesn’t make any sense at all—yet it is the basis for punishment.
Think of the last time someone put you down, humiliated you and made you feel bad. Did you feel motivated to do better? Did you think, “This is so helpful. I can hardly wait to bring all my problems to this person. She is so encouraging?” Or, did you feel like rebelling, getting even or giving up? One of the latter is what most children do. I call this the Three R’s of Punishment: 1) Rebellion, 2) Revenge, 3) Retreat, which comes in two forms: a) Low self-esteem: “I really am a bad person and need to please others to get love.” b) Sneaky: “I just won’t get caught next time.”
Most parents don’t think about the long-term effects of punishment. They don’t realize that punishment may stop bad behavior for the moment but may result in future rebellion, revenge or sneakiness. Even when a child becomes obedient, it may be because she has decided (at a subconscious level), “I’m not good enough. Maybe if I obey I will be loved.” This can have disastrous results in the future when this same child decides to do whatever her peers want her to do so she will be accepted. When all their intelligence and energy is directed toward proving themselves to others, rebelling or giving up, children do not develop the perceptions and skills needed to become fully competent and capable people.
Punishment is designed to make children pay for what they have done. Positive Discipline is designed to help children learn from what they have done in a safe and encouraging environment. We follow the Five Criteria for Effective Discipline: 1) Does it help children feel a sense of connection (belonging and significance)? 2) Is it respectful and encouraging (kind and firm at the same time)? 3) Is it effective long-term? (Punishment works in the short term, but has negative long-term results.) 4) Does it teach valuable social and life skills for good character (respect, concern for others, problem-solving and cooperation)? 5) Does it help children develop the belief that they are capable?
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