In the life of every parent there are difficult periods, age-related crises, etc. In many cases it is hard to control their own feelings for parents, and when children add to the overall unpleasant situation, it becomes especially critical. It is necessary to understand, though, that the parents’ behavior is very important for children, as they tend to imitate it and learn how things work in life by the example of their parents. Punishment is one of the important aspects of the parental behavior and it is important to understand how it can be used to get the result that is right in parents’ viewpoint.
Physical punishment, spanking, earlier was a wide-spread way of punishing the kids (Gershoff et al., 2012). With time, when child psychology science was developing, scholars saw that spanking is not so effective a punishment, and that there are several reasons why it doesn’t work:
1. First of all, any physical punishment is a form of violence and the use of force. These actions are considered as wrong, are condemned and deserve punishment themselves. Thus, by applying the physical punishment, we are violating our own ban. And what kind of education can we talk about if our personal example destroys all the foundations and values we try to develop in the child?
2. The use of physical force is by nature recognition of their parents’ moral weakness. When an adult has exhausted intellectual arguments, when he could not control himself and began to apply his physical resources, we can talk about his moral defeat and, consequently, authority decrease (Gershoff et al., 2012). In addition, the child may conclude that by his provocations he can get the necessary result from the parents.
3. The application of physical force by seniors and close people will turn physical violence to domestic and normal behavior. This will result in the use of violence by the child for solving any problems and tasks. Over time, this model of behavior will be adopted, and all actions of the child will be based on violence, as the easiest and simplest way to solve all problems and troubles. It is always necessary to remember that children love to imitate, especially those people whom they love and respect.
4. Physical violence is humiliating for those who become its subjects. By humiliating children, parents break their value system and hinder their esteem formation. After physical violence a child feels that no one needs him, that he is not loved and lonely. These feelings can cause him doing aggressive and negative actions in parents’ address, which will lead to a new punishment (Bandura, Ross & Ross, 1961). And if there would be another physical violence, the circle closes and it is too hard to find a way out.
In fact, physical abuse is humiliating for the parent as well. Parents spank (or yell at a child) out of desperation, because they do not know what to do, but then they feel powerless and devastated when they realize that the method does not work. In this case they can win the battle, but lose the war.
5. Physical violence does not work. It is the least effective, and sometimes not at all effective, way of punishment. If a child does what their parents want, it is only out of fear. Over time, the sense of fear will pass, but the respect and love will be too hard to recover. It is possible to achieve the desired result from a child in other more effective ways, without aggravating conflict.
The more parents spank children, the worse their children behave (Straus, Sugarman & Giles-Sims, 1997). It happens because the framework to achieve the desired behavior of the child is the following: the child, who feels right, does the right things. Physical punishment undermines this principle. Child that was spanked feels wrong inside, and this is reflected in his behavior.
Thus, more and more parents prefer non-physical forms of punishment. The most common of these is the so-called time-out. Time-out means that the child is excluded from the general activities for some time, and no one pays attention to him. This method is used calmly, without yelling and tantrums, but with an explanation of the reasons of punishment.
As well as the other methods of education, the timeout is only effective when applied on a mandatory basis, on time and consistently. Children need to understand that certain rules in their life are set by adults, and if they break them, it is followed by punishment.
Some experts believe that time-out is the most humane and gentle way of expressing dissatisfaction of the parent (Smith, 2012). This method is applied not to the personality of the kid, but to a specific offense. By breaking contact, parents give the child an original signal: "Such behavior is unacceptable!" This method, of pulling the kid out of the social environment, isolating him from family, friends, and significant adults is a sensitive way of punishment for wrongdoing.
Time out, as an alternative to physical punishment, may have adverse effects, as it causes resentment and negativism can develop. In addition, after the age of 4 this method stops working, as children begin to understand that they will not sit on a chair the whole life away from everyone, which is why they simply wait for that "period" to pass. So, the threat of ignoring does not make children give up something that is forbidden.
There are opponents of this form of punishment, who argue that it does not lead to improved child behavior, but only shakes their psyche (Lansford et al., 2012). In families where parents do not shout, do not practice interruptions in communication with the child, and are rarely threatened with violence, children behave much calmer than in families that practiced isolation.
Studies show that for elimination of bad behavior it is more effective to ignore the child, than to give a negative reaction. If the behavior cannot be ignored, it is best to take the child to his room and to stay with him, but in no case to leave him alone. It is necessary to explain that such an act cannot be good, that the kid will not continue to play with friends and be together with other people. On parents’ part, any significant emotional reaction is important.
Among other non-physical punishments there are: verbal punishment and deprivation of something pleasant. Under the first variant, there is usually meant raising voices. Crying means emotional burnout, release of parents’ own negative emotions, teaching helplessness and powerlessness. Yelling is appropriate only when the child's actions threaten the lives of others or his own.
Deprivation of something pleasant (fun, sweet) is one of the most appropriate ways to manage the behavior of the children. It is best to deprive him of good than to inflict pain and suffering (Lansford et al., 2012). Each child has his own preferences, of which parents should be aware. It is good to have a supply of small and large feasts for the senses - the so-called zone of joy. Denying a child the right to participate in these celebrations is a sizeable penalty.
- Adult must observe the position of senior and be able to cope with his own impulses.
- The punishment should be equivalent to the offense.
- In special cases, when stopping the actions of the child, it is possible can take him by the arm or shoulder.
- It is necessary to contact with a child in a confident voice, looking him in the eyes.
- Children should be punished immediately after the offense.
- Punishment must always be accompanied with a detailed explanation of its reasons to prevent recurrence.
- One offense - one punishment. When the punishment is over, parents have to show that the child is forgiven.
Thus, in the case of five-year-old Ben and his stealing from the supermarket, the most effective type of punishment would also be a talk about stealing and maybe deprivation of something pleasant for him for a set period of time. It will certainly teach him much more. Than spanking, and the effect would definitely be better.
Bandura, A., Ross, D., & Ross, S.A. (1961). Transmission of Aggression through Imitation of Aggressive Models. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 63, 575-582.
Gershoff, E.T. Lansford, J.E., Sexton, H.R., Davis-Kean, P., & Sameroff, A.J. (2012). Longitudinal Links Between Spanking and Children’s Externalizing Behaviors in a National Sample of White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian American Families. Child Development, 83(3), 838–843.
Lansford, J.E., Wager, L.B., Bates, J.E., Pettit, G.S., & Dodge, K.A. (2012). Forms of Spanking and Children's Externalizing Behaviors. Family Relations, 61(2), 224–236.
Smith, B.L. (2012). The case against spanking. Monitor on Psychology, 43(4), 60-64.
Straus, M., Sugarman, D.B. & Giles-Sims, J. (1997). Spanking by Parents and Subsequent Antisocial Behavior of Children. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 151(8):761-767.