Punishment is Not the Answer

If you believe a youngster is an adult, then punish the youngster as you would an adult. However, if you believe that young people are not yet adults and you want to prevent them from becoming incarcerated with the other 2,0000,000 people in this country, then punishment may not be the most effective approach.

Punishment is often confused with discipline, and it operates on the theory that young people must be hurt to learn. But can you recall the last time you felt bad and did something good? The fact is that people, including children, do not think positively with negative feelings.

Punishments kill the very thing we are attempting to do: change behavior into something that is positive and socially appropriate.

If your or your school believes that young people are not yet adults, then you need to re-examine the use of imposed punishments (a concept applied to adult behavior).

The Truth about Punishment

Consider the National Parent Teachers Association’s definition of discipline: “To many people, discipline means punishment. But, actually, to discipline means to teach. Rather than punishment, discipline should be a positive way of helping and guiding children to achieve self-control.” (“Discipline: A Parent’s Guide” Copyright 1993, The National PTA)

To help yourself and the young people in your life move from being punishment-minded to being self-motivated, review the Levels of Development.

Tip: Although imposed punishments are necessary for adults who act in socially unacceptable ways, imposing the same approaches on young people is counterproductive. It feeds the common misconception that schools are like prisons in that use of external authoritarianism is the only way to promote learning.