The following scenarios are examples of what some parents are in the habit of saying to thier children:

“Do as I say or you’ll get a spanking.”
“Be quiet or I’ll smack you.”
“If you bring home another F, I’ll pull out the paddle.”
“Say you’re sorry, young man, or I’ll have you scrub the bathroom with a toothbrush.

For many parents, a question that comes to mind when they hear the above statements is the use of punishment as a discipline method. Many parents, as well as schools, go even further by using corporal punishment as a way of “keeping a youngster in check.” Research findings report that children who undergo corporal punishment may act out, exhibit low self-esteem, and display poor socialization and poor academic performance. Yet parents and school personnel continue to employ such practices as a way to discipline a child.

Children who suffer physical punishment may experience shame, guilt, and physical and emotional pain, just to name a few. Perhaps physical punishment is viewed as an effective discipline tool by many, but is it effective and psychologically safe in the long run? Children learn through encouragement and modeling. Wouldn’t it be better if adults could teach and discipline children through non-violent means?

Some parents believe that “a spanking” solves a problem by halting the child’s undesirable behavior. Are children learning self-control because of some therapeutic effect of corporal punishment or are their behaviors driven by fear?

The Difference between Discipline and Punishment
There is a huge difference between discipline and punishment. When a parent gives a consequence as a means of discipline, he teaches the child responsibility. Punishment, on the other hand, leads to fear and resentment. Another difference is that during a consequence, the child has the opportunity to correct his behavior while he does not during punishment. Punishment is a one-way street. When a child is punished, he may feel shame, guilt, fear, and resentment. Punishment sends him the message that “You’re wrong and now you’ll pay!”

Once a child is punished, he has not been given the opportunity to correct his behavior or learn other appropriate responses. In return, he may feel discouraged at even trying to behave in the future. If all he has to look forward to each time he errs is a negative outcome, then why try, he reasons?

When a parent wants to consequence a child for an undesirable behavior, it is best to give the child a chance to earn his privileges back. A child who has lost a privilege is a discouraged child. He may not be motivated to correct his behavior if he cannot earn the privilege back. Allowing the child to see that he has the power to correct his behavior teaches him responsibility and allows him to see that good behaviors lead to positive outcomes while undesirable behaviors lead to consequences.

Some examples of parents’ statements:

Parent: “When you turn this F to a B, I will treat you to Chucky Cheese.”

Parent: “Stealing is wrong. You would not want someone to steal your things. I will confiscate your video game and give it back to you after you apologize to your friend for stealing.”

Parent: I am not pleased that you did not clean up your room. You will not be able to watch TV this evening but may watch tomorrow after you clean your room up.”

Excerpt from: My Kid is Acting Out and I am about to shout: Parenting Made Easy (audio book CD)

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Rossi Davis is a licensed counselor and a certified hypnotherapist.