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"Punish him so he learns" is useless to educate: how to raise respectfully and without punishment

“Punish him so he learns”; “a timely punishment saves you trouble later”; “As long as you don’t punish him, he’ll go to hell” … With these and other similar phrases, adults justify the need to punish children when we consider that they have done something wrong , because otherwise we believe that they will not learn or not we will be educating them correctly.

But it is more than proven that punishing does not serve to educate, in addition to having negative consequences for the development of children.

If you want your child to learn what is right and what is wrong and know how to act accordingly, we explain why punishing him will not help him do it.

What do we mean by ‘punishments’?

To begin with, it is important to specify what we mean by ‘punishment’, since what may be obvious to some people may not be so obvious to others.

When we talk about physical punishment, in general, most people agree that slapping, spanking or any type of aggression towards children is completely disrespectful, harmful and harmful, as well as being a practice prohibited by law in many countries.

But when we talk about punishment from an emotional or psychological point of view , not everyone sees it so clearly. In fact, for many people, applying behavior modification techniques such as “time out” or “thinking chair” is not punishing. Nor is it for others to withdraw certain privileges from the child (leaving him without television, without going out with friends or without going to the park), humiliating him or exercising authoritarianism in some way when they consider that “he has not behaved well.”

But the truth is that all people have the right to be respected physically and psychologically , and fathers, mothers and educators should raise and educate children without causing pain, humiliation or any other negative consequence.

Why do we resort to punishments?

The reasons why adults resort to punishment to educate children can be varied, but in general we can say that they are due to:

Genetic heritage

The “genetic inheritance”, that is, the way in which we were educated as children influences the way we have to educate our children (unless we consider doing it differently).


When we do not know how the brain reacts to punishment and, therefore, how this practice harms the development of children: how are we going to know that we should avoid it?

lack of tools

If we do not have tools or resources to help us educate in a respectful way, it is normal to fall into punishment. This lack of tools is especially evident in situations that cause us frustration, indignation or anger and we do not know how to tackle them in another way.

Stress and lack of patience

Stress, lack of patience and the whirlwind of the day sometimes lead us to educate with “automatic pilot on” and without really being aware of the needs of children.

Social pressure

Social pressure and expectations can lead us to do or say things we don’t mean to because of the fear that others will judge us. That is why it is common to fall into punishment, since it is a “normalized” practice in society and that some even recommend you to educate.

If we don’t punish, the child will get away with it

There is still the misconception that if we don’t punish the child for something he has done wrong, “he will be getting away with it.” But it is important to change our focus and not understand upbringing and education as a “pull” or a “fight” against the child that we must win.

Thinking that punishment is effective in educating

When the adult confirms that, in general, punishment works when it comes to modifying the child’s behavior immediately, it is easy to end up believing that without resorting to this technique it is impossible to educate.

But the reality is totally different , and the change in behavior that occurs after a punishment is nothing more than a short-lived mirage that, moreover, has very negative consequences on their self-esteem and personality development.

How does punishment affect child development and why is it not educational?

Punishment is not effective in educating, as it does not teach the child how to act autonomously and responsibly in the long term. In other words, punishment is a tool that only penalizes, but does not educate.

And it is that if we analyze it, we will realize the null pedagogical sense that punishment has , since its application is not related to the child’s behavior:

  • How does it educate to leave a child without television for arguing with his brother?
  • What are we teaching our son when we punish him without leaving his room for failing an exam?
  • What educational value is there in depriving a child of going to the park for having a tantrum?
  • What does the child learn who is punished with a whip for hitting another?
But beyond its null educational value, using punishment negatively affects the child’s self-esteem and the development of his personality, in addition to damaging the bond with the adult.

Among many other negative consequences, punishment provokes in the child a feeling of resentment or rancor, cowardice, fear, frustration, rebellion and lack of trust in the adult. In addition, children who are raised in an environment where punishment is frequently used may appear insecure and feel that their needs are not being taken into account.

Finally, and as we have just mentioned, the link with the adult (whether parents, educators or teachers) ends up deteriorating, since punishment distances us and disconnects us from the child, alters the climate of coexistence and places us in a position of superiority and inequality.

Keys to educate without punishment

Raising children is a difficult and exhausting path, and unfortunately, in the current society in which we live , we travel this path completely alone . Given the lack of a tribe to support us and the absolute lack of resources, we parents end up acting as we know best, but the reality is that we are more lost than ever.

That is why we should not blame or martyr ourselves if we have ever fallen into punishment when it comes to educating. The important thing is to be aware that we can do better, looking for respectful alternatives when educating.

In this sense, the first thing we must do is look beyond the behavior that the child is having; that is, find out what unmet need is trying to manifest to us through wrong behavior. Once we understand what lies below, we can begin to work the limits from empathy, love and respect.

Because contrary to what many people believe, raising and educating with kindness and empathy is not synonymous with being permissive or not setting limits. On the contrary: limits are necessary for the child to grow up happy, safe and confident , as they teach him to behave in society and relate healthily with others.

But how to establish effective limits from respect and kindness?

We share these four infallible keys:

– 1) We must be clear when setting these limits , and whenever possible, allow the child to participate in them.

– 2) Limits must be fair , proportionate and consistent

– 3) If the child breaks the limit, apart from the natural consequence that will entail (note!, we are not referring to a punishment, but to what happens logically when a limit is broken. For example: “if you don’t finish your homework on time, you won’t have time to play later because we have to have dinner”), it is important that we help him reflect on his behavior , learn from his mistake and take responsibility for his actions.

– 4) When the child makes a mistake it is essential that we teach him to repair it and apologize to the affected person.

In short, when the adult who guides and educates the child acts in a calm, responsible, respectful and loving way , the child will not only be learning through his example to relate to and treat others, but will also learn to take responsibility for his own behavior. acts, to repair their mistakes and to act from their own control and autonomy.

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