It is interesting to see people trying to mould behavior patterns in kids by strategic use of punishment. However I have my reservations about the efficacy of such a tool, especially in small children.
Essentially punishment should be an instrument of correcting behavior however we often reduce it to a mere power wielding weapon to assert our authority over children and make them conform by creating a dread of ensuing punishment.
And the result, is merely to scare the child out of his wits into following a set line of behaviour without adding anything to his understanding of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. This may work but sometimes such children grow up as timid , unquestioning adults . That is why the role of punishment seems limited to me. However since punishment of some kind is at times the only option , a few things can be kept In mind:
- Firstly , for punishment to have any impact , it should be seen as such by the child. A 5 year old is unlikely to know he is being punished faced with a screaming parent. All he sees is an angry face and hears a loud voice — he is not ‘listening’ or understanding…he is merely dealing with an angry tirade and trying to shut off the noise.Calmly explain how you want him/her to behave.
- At any time punishment should be in proportion to the age of the child and gravity of the situation.
- Hitting the child as punishment is a sure sign of the parent’s helplessness .The children recognize it as our last ditch effort of trying to get our way.—and often push their limits just to see how we would react.
- Any form of punishment that entails physically distancing the child from you for a period of time is often construed as rejection by children who might feel that you are using it merely as an excuse to get rid of him/her.
- Do not play upon the child’s fears. A child of 6 who is afraid of the dark and is made to sleep without a light as punishment will only become more nervous.The idea is not to “teach him a lesson” but to teach that what he did was wrong how it would affect others around him and what he should remember in the future.
- Even when punishment is the only recourse, have a face saving device ready so he/she could muster up his/her lost dignity. Tell them how they can make amends to right the wrong they have done. Remember the aim should not be to humiliate the child but to make them a better person.Even their smallest efforts at this should be appreciated.
- Be approachable. Create an environment where the kids are not afraid to come and tell you when they have done something wrong. If you blow your fuse the minute you catch them , they’ll start hiding things and lying to you —so in fact –in trying to solve one problem we have created another i.e. lying.
- Do not ‘brand’ the child. Calling the child ‘liar’, ‘thief’, and ‘cheater’ etc only makes the child more defiant and he will stop making any effort to change a faulty behaviour pattern since you have already given him a name tag.
- N o matter what they have done hear them out and do not rush to judge them and punish them .
- And lastly, Reassure them that you will love them , no matter what— that gives the child the motive for improvement.