To use punishment effectively, parents should use it less often. That’s because punishment often has unintended negative effects. One of these side effects is that, punishment often triggers STRONG NEGATIVE EMOTIONAL RESPONSES, including fear, anxiety, anger, and resentment. These emotional reactions can create a variety of problems, including hostility toward parents.
A second side effect is that heavy punishment can result in the general SUPPRESSION OF BEHAVIOUR. In other words, children who are strongly and frequently punished may become withdrawn and inhibited because they fear that any behaviour will be punished. Finally, harsh physical punishment often leads to an INCREASE IN AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOUR.. Children who are subjected to a lot of physical punishment tend to become more aggressive than the average youngster.
Despite the truckload of side effects associated with punishment, it duoes have a role to play in DISCIPLINARY EFFORTS. The following suggestions show how to make punishment effective while minimizing its negative side effects:
- Punishment should not damage the child’s self-esteem. Punishment should get across the message that , it is the behaviour that is undesirable not the child.
- Punishment should be swift. Delay in delivering punishment undermines its impact. A parent who says, “WAIT UNTIL YOUR FATHER ( or mother) GETS HOME …” is making a fundamental mistake. ( He or she is also demonizing the other parent). Quick punishment makes effective connectoon between it and the unwanted behaviour.
- Punishment should be consistent. If you want to eliminate an undesirable behaviour, you should punish it every time it occurs.
- Punishment should be explained . When children are punished, the reason for their punishment should be explained as fully as possible– it makes punishment more effective and fosters development of self’-control in the children.
- Point out alternative , positive ways for the child to behave and reward such positive behaviour whenever the child exhibits it.
Given the advantages and disadvantages of punishment, one question arises; ARE THERE SOME FUNDAMENTAL RULES FOR EFFECTIVE PARENTING ? Yes. There are five prescriptions that will enhance parenting effectiveness.
- SET HIGH, BUT REASONABLE STANDARDS. Children should be expected to behave in socially acceptable manner for their age and to do as well as they can in school and in other activities. Parents who do not expect much from their children are teaching them not to expect much from themselves.
- STAY ALERT FOR “GOOD” BEHAVIOUR AND REWARD IT. Most parents pay attention to children when they are misbehaving and ignore them when they are being good. This is not progressive ! Develop the habit of praising good behaviour so a child knows what you want.
- EXPLAIN YOUR REASONS WHEN YOU ASK A CHILD TO DO SOMETHING. Do not expect that a child can read your mind.
- ENCOURAGE CHILDREN TO TAKE THE PERSPECTIVE OF OTHERS. Talk to children about the effects of their behaviour on others. This approach fosters moral development and empathy in children.
- ENFORCE RULE CONSISTENTLY. Children need to have a clear idea about what is expected of them and the consequences when they fail to meet standards. This practice fosters self-control.
Rotimi Adelola, PhD; DhE
APPLIED POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY ACADEMY