Punishments are traditionally thought of as the best method to stop and alter a child’s behavior. However, science and experience have shown that punishments aren’t only ineffective, but also detrimental to a child’s emotional and psychological well-being. There is a difference between disciplining and punishing a child. Discipline helps the child solve a problem that the parents identify in their behavior. Whereas punishment includes inflicting pain, be it physical or emotional, on the child, because they have a behavioral problem.
That is why discipline is considered the better option. By disciplining a child, we are helping them regulate their behavior, and eventually, find a solution to their behavioral issues. Therefore, we raise a problem-solver. However, if we choose to punish, and inflict pain, we are automatically raising the child to believe that their mistakes cannot be fixed unless they are hurt.
How Does Child Punishment Work?
Riham Monzer, a child psychologist, believes that punishment can lead to two outcomes. The first outcome is when the punishment is actually successful, and the unwanted behavior is put to an end. Despite the positive outcome of this scenario, the results are, however, temporary. The child only changes their behavior in order to escape punishment, not because they are convinced that it was wrong. Therefore, the problem implicitly remains, defeating the whole purpose of tackling a behavioral problem with one’s child, to begin with.
The second outcome is when the child becomes desensitized toward punishment. The parents believe that there are no other solutions except through punishment. Popular instances of such a scenario are when a child willingly gives up a prized possession (iPad, Tablet, or game console).
This goes to show the ineffectiveness of this method, where the child lacks the will and reason to change their behavior.
Emotional Connection Between Children and Parents
Connection is a basic human need; it is vital for a child’s growth and security. However, a “time-out” often acts as an obstacle to that connection. This act separates the child from their parents emotionally. The child thus interprets this separation as a penalty for not being able to control their feelings and thus making them feel like they are to blame.
Childhood is an imperative training period in deciding what type of adult the child will become. If we teach the child in this period, that the answer to their mistakes is isolation and punishment, they will grow up with that knowledge. They will carry said knowledge in their future relationships as adults. The child will grow up to believe that the “silent treatment” and the disconnection that happens during arguments, is the right way to treat mistakes instead of communication.
It is important to understand that when we sever this connection with our children and prohibit them from doing something they enjoy, the last thing they will be thinking about is their mistakes. Instead, the child will think poorly of themselves and believe that they are a bad person. Eventually, this will give birth to a self-deprecating sentiment where the child seeks to punish themselves without the parents’ knowledge.
The Results of Punishment
The pain from punishment, be it physical or psychological, breeds hostility and anger. When a child is constantly punished, fear is instilled in their mindset. Instead of seeing their parents as a shelter, and people to look up to, they end up fearing them and seeing them as sort of “punishers.”
In other words, the parents become the bad guy. As the child grows older, they would trust their parents less with their secrets, or mistakes, and end up looking for a safer haven, therefore creating a continuously expanding gap from childhood to adulthood.
If you like this article, subscribe here to our EMPWR Guide and be first to receive all our latest articles surrounding mental health in the MENA Region, directly to your inbox, every Sunday.
Be sure to check out and join our global conversation around mental health on EMPWR’s Facebook Community Group.
To learn more about EMPWR Podcasts join EMPWR’s Podcasting Community Group on Facebook.
EMPWR is currently accepting Freelance Submissions & Art/Poetry here (All articles must comply with EMPWR’s writing guidelines for consideration.)