Is Pema Chodron a good role model

In view of the research results available, it can hardly be denied that punishing children does not work. It is more difficult to say with certaintyWhy Punishment doesn't work. Still, we can venture a few guesses.

Punishment makes people angry

As with other forms of control, resorting to punitive consequences often enrags the recipient of the punishment, and the experience is doubly painful for him because he lacks the power to change it. What history teaches us about nations reflects what psychology teaches us about individuals: if given an opportunity, those who feel victims may become perpetrators themselves.

Punishment is a model for the use of power

Corporal punishment serves as an example of violence for children - that is, of using violence to solve problems. Basically, something similar is learned from every punishment. The lesson we had in mind when we punished the kids ("Don't do x again"), children may and may not learn. But they certainly learn that the most important people in their lives, their role models, are trying to solve problems by using power to make the other unhappy, so that they are forced to surrender. Punishment doesn't just make a child angry; at the same time"Offer him a role model to express his hostility outwardly"as one researcher notes. In other words, they teach that power comes before right.

Punishment loses its effectiveness over time

As children get older, it becomes harder and harder to find something bad enough to do to them. (It also becomes increasingly difficult to find sufficiently attractive rewards.) At some point, your threats start to sound hollow, and your children do"You are house arrest!" or"There's no pocket money for you this week!" shrugging off. This does not prove that children are tough or stubborn, nor does it mean that you need help devising more diabolical ways to harm your children. Rather, it suggests that trying to help children become good people by punishing them for bad things may have been a foolish strategy to begin with.

Think of it this way: When young children wonder why they should be nice or resist certain temptations, parents have a choice. You can draw on the respect and trust you have built by loving your children unconditionally, and use common sense and persuasiveness to explain to them the effect that doing this instead of that will have on other people. Or they can just fall back on bare power:"If you don't let that be, you will be punished."

The problem with the second approach is that when your power begins to wane - and it will - you will be left with nothing. As Thomas Gordon noted:"The inevitable consequence of using power to control your children when they are young is that you never learn to be influential." The more you resort to penalties"The less real influence you will have on your life".


Punishment undermines relationships with our children

When we punish, we make it very difficult for our children to see ourselves as loving allies, which is essential for healthy development. Instead, we (in their eyes) become executors to avoid. Very young children are beginning to understand that their parents, those mighty, all-powerful people on whom they are totally dependent, sometimes they areon purpose Make me unhappy: These giants, who hold me and rock me, feed me and dry my tears with kisses, sometimes go to great lengths to take things I like away from me, or make me feel worthless, or hit me on the bum (although sheme keep saying to express myself sensibly).

They tell me they act this way because I did something, but all I know is that I am no longer sure whether I can trust them or feel completely safe with them. It would be pretty stupid of me to admit to them that I am angry or that I have done something bad, because I have had the experience that they might then take a break, talk to me in a completely loveless voice or even hit me. So I prefer to keep my distance from them.

Punishment distracts children from the important things

Imagine if a child is told to go to their room and miss their favorite program on TV because they just hit their brother. Let's take a quick look at him sitting there on his bed. What do you think is on his mind? If you suspect that he is thinking about his behavior, maybe even saying thoughtfully to himself:"You know, now I see that it is wrong to hurt others" - then make sure you keep sending your children to their room if they misbehave.

However, if - like anyone who has had (or been to) a real child in the past - you find this scenario ridiculously unlikely, then why should you impose this - or any other - sentence in the first place? The idea that time off is an acceptable form of discipline because it gives children time to think about things rests on an absurdly unrealistic assumption. Punishment does not make children focus on what they did, much less why they did it or what they should have done instead. Rather, punishment leads them to think about how mean their parents are and maybe also how they can get revenge (on the child who got them into trouble).

Most of all, they will think about the punishment itself: how unfair it is and how to avoid it next time. Punishing children - by threatening to do the same again if they arouse displeasure in the future - is an excellent way to perfect their ability to avoid detection. When you say to a child:"I don't want to see you do something like that again"the child thinks:"Okay. You won't see me there next time. " It also serves as a strong incentive to lie. (Children who are not punished, on the other hand, are less afraid to admit what they've done.) However, punitive parents respond to the predictable dishonesty that comes with traditional upbringing -"It was not me! It was already broken! " - mostly not by questioning their use of punishment, but by punishing the child again, this time for lying.

Punishment makes children more self-centered

With the wordConsequences is thrown around a lot, not only as a euphemism for punishment, but also as a justification for it - when, for example, it is claimed:"Children have to learn that their behavior has consequences." But consequences for whom? The answer that every punishment gives is: for themselves. A child's attention is focused entirely on what consequences it will have for itself if they break a rule or rebel against an adult - that is, with what consequences the child has to reckon when caught.

When we punish, we make children wonder:"What do they (the adults who have power) want from me and what happens to me if I don't?" This is a reflection of the question that arises at home or at school when children are offered a reward for good behavior:"What do they (the adults in power) want from me and what do I get if I do?" In both questions, only self-interest plays a role. And both are completely different from what we would like children to ask themselves - like:"What kind of person do I want to be?"

Two researchers explained their finding that punishing children affects their moral development by using punishments"Direct the child's gaze to the consequences of his behavior for the actor, that is, for the child himself". The more we resort to punitive consequences, including time off - or rewards, including praise - the less likely it is that our children will think about the effects of their behavior on other people. Conversely, they may be more likely to conduct a cost-benefit analysis - that is, to weigh the risk of being caught and punished against the forbidden pleasure.

It is difficult for them to understand why someone who loves them will still harm them

These reactions - calculating the risk, thinking about how to avoid getting caught, lying to protect yourself - make sense from the child's perspective. You are perfectly reasonable. What they are not, however, is moral, and that's because punishment - any kind of punishment as it is in the nature of things - hinders moral reasoning.

Some parents justify their use of punishment by saying they love their children with all their hearts. This is undoubtedly true. However, it creates a deeply confusing situation for the children. It is difficult for them to understand why someone who clearly loves them will still cause them suffering from time to time. This creates the distorted idea that children might carry around with them all their lives, that loving someone also means causing them pain. Or they simply learn that love is conditional, that it can only last as long as the other does exactly what you want.

This article is from the bookLove and independence

We thank the author for permission to reprint. Further information on Alfie Kohn's work can be found on his English website alfiekohn.org.