Punishment only breaks the spirit, does not heal it”
Does punishment really work? Why do we punish our children and what message are we giving them with punishment? And most importantly, how do they perceive it?
This post is neither to glorify punishment nor to dismiss it. It is just an attempt to think before we act;whether an act of violence and not necessarily a physical one, would fetch the desired result.
Very often, punishment is synonymous with discipline. But this is far from the truth. When we punish a child, it is just a reaction, an instinct in answer to their defiance –TIT FOR TAT. Before this we react with punishment, if we stop to think if years of punishment have their fitting effect, the answer more often would be NO. By punishing a child, we teach the children that it is alright to overreact, teaches him/her that it is ok to disrespect fellow citizens and paves way for total insecurity and lack of self-confidence. This may manifest as either an overly submissive child or a violent bully. The message we assume we are giving and the message perceived by the child are completely different. Children learn by observation than by advice and by punishing the children who are vulnerable and weaker than us, we give the message that it is perfectly alright to show our might to weaker beings.
Just because we were spanked, snapped at or verbally abused as a child, does it justify following the same master plan for our children too? “We turned out just fine” – is this an acceptable statement to rationalize the scar we are stamping on our innocent kids’ souls?
So what is the right way to discipline? Discipline is not a situation based attribute but has to come from within. It is the parents’ core responsibility to inculcate discipline by imbibing self-realization in the child; to make the child understand that parents will only be guides and it is the child himself who has to reap the results of his actions. Making children responsible for their own actions is a long term and far healthier alternative to punishing. To become a guide, we need to resist the temptation to control every aspect of their life and grow out of the mindset that children cannot handle life without our constant intervention. Hold the string when they soar and just give a mild tug when they turn in the wrong direction.
Punishing only creates fear and destroys the child’s innocence and compassion – qualities children are naturally born with. Are we seeking a fear-based relationship with our kids or a loving one? Do we want our children to remember us as kind and loving parents or as fearsome ones? More importantly do we want them to understand the values of discipline and taking responsibility for their actions? If the answer is yes, then impulsive punishment is not the solution.
On the same lines as this article, consider using this only as a guideline and not as a Gospel. After all, parenting uses only guidelines and not rulebooks. End of the day, we choose our parenting strategies based on our faiths and beliefs. And there is no right or wrong in parenting. We only reap the fruits of our actions.