Simply put, punishment is a negative consequence. It is meant to eliminate or reduce misbehavior. Needless to say, too much punishment is detrimental, especially to very young tots. Many parents believe that punishing a child for a misdeed stops him or her from doing the unacceptable behavior again. However, this does not hold true at all times. Only when punishment is used appropriately will it work. If it only creates unpleasant feelings (e.g. humiliation) or physical injury, as much as it drains your energies and your child’s energies, then this strategy is futile.
When And Why Punishment Works Corporal punishment is probably the most controversial of all techniques. Though many experts attest that it is ineffective, biblical references to it (“Spare the rod, spoil the child”) continue to make it “popular” among families who use some form of it every day. It usually involves an open-handed smack on the buttocks or a flick of a hand. Parents who use spanking say it should be used only for specific, purposeful behavior. It should never be used out of spite, and must only be used when all other methods fail.
Some parents lay down rules and limits and give warnings before they resort to spanking. It is safe, they say, to keep at least these three things in mind to avoid any serious physical and emotional damage to the child:
if you must, spank in private
two smacks on the buttocks or two flicks on the wrist should be enough to get your message across
anger and punishment don’t mix. When spanking isn’t working, it’s time to consider other forms of discipline.
Photography by David Hanson Ong
Lolita David, preschool teacher, Toddler’s Camp
Valya Telep, Ph.D, child development specialist, Virginia State University
Building Strong Families Positive Discipline Participant Work Book by Mary Gosche
How to Behave So Your Children Will, Too! by Sal Severe, Ph.D.