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Using Punishment to Discipline: Does it Work?

Want to ask a pertinent question – As the child grows older what will stop him from hitting back at the parent? You know, he could, as he is becoming stronger. The fear of the adult represses his emotions and he is left feeling angry and resentful.

So how does he expel this rage within him? He could bully his siblings or friends or classmates around him who are weaker than him or continue to be bullied in his environment, an extension of what is happening at home. One reads stories in the newspaper on how children are not able to handle anger and tragedy strikes.

I shudder to think what might happen when he has a partner in his adult life or when he becomes a parent himself! One never knows which way the wind will blow.

To summarise:

  • Hitting teaches the child that it is ok to hit others.
  • Hitting affects the child’s self-esteem.
  • Hitting creates fear in the child.
  • Hitting does not improve behaviour.
  • Even occasional hitting can negate all the love we give the child.
  • Research has shown that spanking has long-term bad effects on the child.

Ruth Beaglehole, an eminent parent educator and founder of the Center for Nonviolent Education and Parenting, Los Angeles USA, says ‘When an adult strikes another, it’s assault. When a woman is threatened or hit by someone she lives with, it’s called domestic violence. When someone deliberately hurts an animal it’s called cruelty to animals. All these are considered criminal acts. If you strike a child, it’s called spanking. But in our society it is not a crime for parents or caregivers to strike a child, as long as they don’t leave a mark. It is not a crime to undermine a child’s emotional life, although the consequences are terrible and many, not only for the child as she becomes an adult, but for the community and society as a whole. After all, both our communities and the society at large are made up of human beings coexisting together.’

 Connecting while building discipline?

We all want to be connected with our child no matter what. But can we use punishment to correct and also bond with the child?! It seems unlikely. How about correcting in a way where the dignity of the child is maintained? Can we have a dialogue, express feelings with each other and figure a way to solve the problem with mutual consent? Can we see the child as an individual on the threshold of adulthood with an identity of her own and different from ours?


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ParentEdge is a bi-monthly magazine for discerning Indian parents who would like to actively contribute to their children’s education, intellectual enrichment and stimulation. The magazine’s premise is that learning is a continuous process, and needs to happen both in and outside of school; thus parents have an important role to play in shaping their children’s interests and intellect.

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