When parents feel their child has done something wrong, they resort to punishment. This punishment may be in the form of warnings, lectures, threats, sarcasm or worse, hitting their kids. And when they get upset afterwards, we believe they’ll become alright after sometime. What we don’t realise is the extent of damage we might be causing to their psyche and that no amount of love later on can undo this damage.
Why do we punish?
Parents often justify punishment that if children are not punished, they’ll become worse or they’ll get away without facing any consequences of their wrong doing. They also feel that doing nothing would make them powerless as parents.
How will it affect the child?
It’s not just tears or a sour face that is the outcome of punishment. Children may have feelings of hatred, revenge, defiance against their parents. They may even begin to feel unworthy, guilty or go in the mode of self pity, thus shattering their confidence and self-esteem.
Will it make the children realise their mistake?
When we punish, we stop the natural process through which the children analyse their behaviour, realising how wrong they were and how they can improve upon it. Punishment shifts their focus on how they were a victim and how badly they were dealt with rather than amending their mistakes.
Is there an alternative?
It is not the question of mild or harsh punishment but the way you make your point to your children that their behaviour is unacceptable. Instead of shouting, slapping or criticising them, try to distract them. If it doesn’t work, tell them in a clear and firm manner that they’re misbehaving and you are not liking it. If they still don’t listen, let them face the consequences by making them sit in their room without toys or not taking them out as promised.
“Is the punishment justified?” ask yourself
You’re in a more powerful situation being mightier and older to your child. Don’t ever misuse this. If children act naughty, do silly things, make careless mistakes – it is natural. They cannot be expected to act like adults. So don’t act like a dictator or an inspector, let children be themselves.
This article appeared in Hindustan Times