To Punish or Not?


Discipline with no punishment? Is it possible? And more importantly is it the correct thing to do as parents?  There are an awful lot of psychiatrists, child educators and others who deal with children from early on who are firm believers in discipline without punishment. But when all is said and done, isn’t any form of discipline actually a form of punishment? Whether one shouts “NO!” and stops a child who is kicking a dog, for instance, or whether one gently says “If you carry on kicking the dog, you will have to go to time out” they are both methods that discipline and have the punishment that goes with the discipline. In the first instance, the child is punished by being pulled away from the kicking of the dog and in the second instance the child is threatened with the punishment of time out. In both methods, it should be explained to the child that it is not “ nice” or acceptable to kick any animal as it hurts them and is a most undesirable way for them to behave. I personally feel that as long as violence isn’t used, the way parents discipline their child/children depends very much on the personality of the child. A strong-willed child will probably need a very different type of discipline  to that of the child who is a real softie. The idea behind discipline/punishment is that one wants to teach one’s child how to make the right choices in life and whatever disciplinary method  a parent chooses should be aimed at helping the child to achieve just this.  My way of thinking is that no one enjoys being ordered to do anything, not even a child and that’s why ordering a child to do/not do anything can lead to power struggles, particularly with a strong-willed child. One has to find a method which works for that child’s personality – probably the gentle persuasion method will not work with a particularly stubborn 2 year old and in the above kicking of the dog example, if one is then going to choose the “time out” method, one should make sure that the child understands that he/she is being put in time out so that they can think about how much it hurts the dog when he/she kicks it and that this is not the way to treat any animal.

We could give our child the positive attention all children need and desire.


So it may be better for the most part to try to avoid the need for any type of disciplinary action! We could, for instance, give our child just 10 minutes once or twice a day of our undivided attention. Let the phone ring, put off cleaning the house and spend that time doing something which your child chooses – it could be playing a game or reading a story or going for a walk! Sometimes bad behaviour is just a child seeking attention. Children thrive on attention and if they don’t receive enough, they will misbehave as to them even the negative attention this generates from adults is better than none at all

We need to make time for training, no matter whether we have had a particularly busy day!

training time

Helping your child to make better choice is the best way to discipline him or her. You could try to role play the behaviour you want to encourage. For instance, if you want your child to learn to share his toys you could say something like “I’d really like to play with that little car when you’re finished”. And you can be encouraging when your child makes a right choice…as in when he tries to tidy up his room all on his own. You could heap praise on him in this instance telling him what a big help it is and thanking him for taking the time to do that. Also if he shares a book or a sweet or his meal with you, or a friend,  tell him how kind he is being and thank him for sharing.

We need to set limits and stick to them!

You have to set limits and stick to them. Children need boundaries and thrive when they are in a structured environment. It’s not necessary or desirable to have hundreds of rules. Rather set rules for what is most important in your family. Be clear about these rules and the consequences of what will happen if the rules are broken. Make sure that everyone is on the same page, understanding both the rules and the discipline which will occur should the rule be broken. The discipline should match the misbehaviours. Whatever your rules and consequences, be consistent and follow through each and every time with the agreed upon consequence when your child pushes the boundary.

When all is said and done, be firm and give them the attention, rules and boundaries that they need. Remember that disciplining/punishing your child should be centred on giving your child the right tools they need to learn a better behaviour and not on physically or mentally hurting them.

Yours in photography,


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