The 5 Most Common Forms of Punishment

by Selena Cruz George
P.E.T. Program Manager

A few weeks ago, I was able to get away for the weekend to hunt down the hottest Summer weather I could find in California and headed to Palm Springs. I suppose everyone else had the same idea…

It seems that in many of the popular vacation spots, you can usually count on the infiltration of families and young children. That being said, these places are also hotspots for witnessing parents from all over the world, scolding their kids.

Call me biased, but I know that after learning about P.E.T., my awareness towards parenting the “other” way is extremely sensitive. It’s almost as if I have acquired a sense of selective hearing for punishment and scoldings which can be like nails on a chalkboard!

After pondering on this some more, I’ve come up with a list of what I believe to be the 5 most common forms of punishment – and of course, the case against it!

1. Yelling – scolding, name calling, demanding

2. Withdrawing or Withholding – taking away privileges which may or may not have anything to do with their unacceptable behavior

3. Using “Logical Consequences” – i.e. if the child is late for dinner, they are made to go without eating

4. Grounding – not allowing them to do anything but what is (according to the parents) necessary

5. Isolation – giving them “time outs”, alone and away from everyone else

In P.E.T., we learn about the different types of authority and that Authority P (power) is used in relationships where there is an imbalance of power. No question about it, power and punishment does work at times. However, as the old saying goes: When the cat’s away the mice will play. Punishment usually works only as long as the parent is present.

As kids grow older and discover their own ways to get their needs met, their reliance on their parents lessens. As a result of this, kids begin to learn that their parents threats will not affect them. Inevitably, parents run out of things to threaten or punish their children with.

Aside from the uselessness that punishment incurs, the long term effects on the child’s behavior can be experienced as a very rude awakening for their parents. It is a commonly accepted idea that teenagers are inherently rebellious. I can’t help but wonder if people really believe that this rebellion comes from no other reason aside from their age.

According to P.E.T., children don’t rebel against their parents; they rebel against their parents’ power. The teen years are those in which the children gain more independence and ability to survive without needing mom and dad.

“In direct contrast to the conventional, “common sense” belief that punishment will prevent aggressive behavior by children, the evidence that indicates that harsh, punitive, power-based punishment actually causes aggression in children. Clearly, punishment doesn’t prevent aggressive behavior by children; it promotes it.” – Dr. Thomas Gordon

I’ll leave off with a question that I posted a couple of weeks ago on the P.E.T. Facebook Fan Page: If punishment is intended to create responsibility & internal self-discipline, then how would it ever work?