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7 Reasons Not to Use Punishments

Below are 7 compelling reasons why you won’t find me recommending punishments to help you manage your child’s behaviour. I prefer to think about boundaries as a way to keep our children safe & gradually teach them how we would like them to behave, and punishments dont fit too well into that framework. Read on to find out why…

1. Punishments put your child's

brain into a state of threat.

Survival mode means your

child cannot regulate their

behaviour, or learn whatever

you're trying to teach them - so

hier behaviour may get worse

in both the short & long term.

2. Punishments only teach your

child that they were wrong,

they do not teach them

what you want them to do

instead. Children learn by

physically doing,

experiencing, & succeeding -

over & over again.

3. Undesirable behaviour is often

related to under-developed

impulse or emotional regulation

skills. Punishments cannot speed

up the development of these

skills, so your child will likely make

the same mistake again, creating

a vicious cycle of punishment,

stress, & shame for both of you.

4. Due to their developing

prefrontal cortex, children

struggle to connect the

punishments with the "crime"

especially if they not logically

or temporally (time) connected. This

means punishments rarely

prevent a behaviour

happening again.

5. We often use punishments

because WE are dysregulated

angry, upset, panicked, ashamed.

Because we

are out of control,

we tend to be too harsh, then

quickly run out of options when

it doesn't work. We may also be

inconsistent, so our children don't

know what to expect.

6. If punishments do work, it is

often due to them causing

high enough levels of fear &

shame. Most of us do not

want to break down our

connection with our children

by fostering these emotions.

Nor do we want them to

internalise these feelings for

their future.

7. Research shows punishment-

based strategies are much

less effective than using

clear, positive, respectful, &


approaches to teach children

how to meet realistic

expectations over time.

So, I hear you - you don’t want to use punishments. But sometimes you get to the end of your tether and don’t know what else to do when things get stressful. Every parent in the world has been there, yes… even psychologists!

Check out my other blog posts for ideas from my 6P Keys of evidence-based strategies that help you AND your child stay regulated when setting boundaries. To see the Keys in action for handling the morning routine with calm confidence, download my free guide!


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