“Are you crazy?” That’s what most people think when they hear that we don’t punish our kids. Using punitive consequences are not in our parenting repertoire, and we are not alone in this approach to discipline. We’re also not in the majority, either. Due to a recent Facebook post, I’ve had to endure many surprised and less-than-tactful comments about positive discipline and its approach of not using punishments. Here is a sampling of the comments I hear about the idea of non-punitive parenting:
- So you let kids hurt others with no consequence. Are they supposed to magically learn how to behave when they grow up?
- What?! I do not agree with that!
- I need a great big “dislike” button for this.
- No punishments? Well that would certainly give me a break, huh?
- Sorry, when I became a parent I knew that I was in for the long haul which includes teaching them that actions have consequences that mom isn’t afraid of doling out.
- Good luck on that one; positive discipline doesn’t really work with strong-willed children.
- I’m not taking the easy way out of parenting by giving in to discipline.
- And so many people wonder why America’s youth is so depraved.
- Parents who think like this are why we have teenage pregnancies, school shootings, dropouts, teen alcoholism and drug abuse. They are teaching their children that there are no repercussions for their actions.
That last one is especially nice, isn’t it? Oh, the joys of the internet where people take the liberty to say things they would never say to someone in person.
How to respond to all of those comments? And where to even begin? Facebook is hard for things like this because it’s not conducive to lengthy thoughtful remarks. It’s impossible to explain in a Facebook comment bar the psychology behind positive discipline, what the methods are, and why they do work. Which is unfortunate since it’s so easy to make short, judgmental quips there.
Not using punishments giving you a break? Taking the easy way out of parenting? Um, no. It kind of gives you the opposite of a break. In fact, it is quite difficult and time-consuming. Teaching kids without the use of punishments requires more time, patience, and effort than simply doling out a rote consequence. It requires respectful communication and emotional connection and a deeper way of thinking about behavior. Punitive parenting requires none of that.
And who said anything about “giving in” to discipline? People seem to think that parenting without punishments means parenting without boundaries, expectations, or accountability for actions. Not so. Positive discipline parents have all of the same behavioral expectations as punitive ones; we just have a different approach to helping kids get there.
Parenting without punishments absolutely works. It’s not that punishments don’t work to teach kids behavior, they do; it’s that they work for different reasons. A punishment teaches a child to behave in a way to avoid the punishment. I would rather teach my children to do what’s right because it’s right, not because of a fear of being punished (or, on the other side of the spectrum, a hope of being rewarded). Someone once defined integrity as “the ability to do the right thing even when no one is looking.” That is what I want for our kids; to be able to think for themselves and act appropriatly based on their own judgment and their own sense of morality. And to not expect or need to be praised for it.
It surprises me that so many parents assume that no punishments means no discipline; no boudaries, no expectations, and no responsibilities for kids. Now that’s crazy! Also considering the fact that the above comments came from people who are fans and members of API, an organization that includes “Practice Positive Discipline” as a core principle for its approach to parenting, I am further surprised that non-punitive parenting is still so widely misunderstood. If only all families could realize the benefits of positive discipline and know that it is so much more effective at reaching long-term parenting goals than simply dealing with surface behaviors moment-to-moment.
It just reminds me why I’m doing what I’m doing; why I work for API, lead parent ed groups, and why I publish articles on positive discipline. It also lets met know I have a lot more work ahead of me.