How do children react to their punishment

Punishing children: how useful is it and is there another way?

“If you don't brush your teeth now, there will be no more chocolate!” Or: “If you throw the shovel again, we will go home immediately!” We all know these “if-then” sentences and this kind of thing, ours To punish children. Sometimes they come out of our lips faster than we'd like. But why do we threaten consequences and want to punish our children? What happens in our child?

Until the 1970s, corporal punishment was part of the common and approved educational methods in the western world. Corporal punishment has been banned in Germany since 2000. From a sociological point of view, it seems understandable that many families struggle to find alternatives - especially since many of our parents, or even ourselves, had to experience physical violence as a punishment. What options do we have as parents instead of punishing?

Punishment: This is what happens to your child

The natural consequence in this example would be to explain to your child that they can hurt someone with the thrown sand, who then cries or gets angry and may no longer want to play with them. With these “if-then-sentences” you show your child very clearly that you don't trust them to stop and cooperate.

First, let's look at what happens to your child when you punish them. Whatever the situation, a penalty becomes that natural consequence not learn his act. It learns one thing through punishment: obedience. For example: Your child throws sand at another child several times in the sandpit. At some point you say: “If you don't stop now, we'll go home immediately!” In the worst case, your child repeats the action and you move home from the playground. You want to point out consequences so that it will stop now and never do it again. However, your child will not learn from this what they did wrong and you will not understand why they did this. There is no encounter and no Conversation at eye level instead of. No connection. Instead, you use your power over your child. What does it learn or experience from it? It will feel bad about itself as a person: That it is not right the way it is and not allowed to do anything wrong, because then it will no longer be loved. They may feel guilty and ashamed. It may also be a confrontation and a fight Makes and control begins.

Why do we punish our children?

I would like to emphasize here that there is not only corporal punishment and threatening “if-then sentences” as punishments. The common forms of punishment also include non-verbal ones, such as laughing at, making a guilty conscience, scolding, ignoring, belittling, ironicizing, reproaching and making a suffering face.

And why do we punish? We punish because we:

  • feel helpless
  • are overwhelmed, tired and stressed
  • we are ashamed of our child's behavior in public and want it to be over quickly
  • want our everyday life to work as a family
  • experienced it in our childhood
  • Are afraid that the child will otherwise (later) "dance around on us"
  • know it from our environment
  • want the child to cooperate immediately
  • have been told that a child needs guidance and must obey
  • Otherwise be afraid of being bad parents

My way as a mom without punishment

In the first two years of my life I read a lot of literature on the subject. I particularly liked the book by Katja Saalfrank "Childhood without punishment: New appreciative ways for parents who want to do it differently." When I read it, everything in me screamed: "Yes, exactly! I will never punish you! ”But it's not that easy at all.

A year later, I have to do with a toddler who repeatedly shows himself to be very strong-willed. Tantrums and a decisive tone come from her side more often than I would like. "Mom, you have to! Mom, I want to now ...! ”If you're the mom of a toddler, you probably know what I'm talking about. And even if we don't have any real appointments and therefore no time pressure from outside due to our free nomadic life, it crashes more often. Because even in our free everyday life, our needs sometimes completely ignore each other. In most cases I am interrupted with something that is important to me and should be with her immediately and meet her need for XY, which together with lack of sleep makes me really sensitive. In short: I am becoming a wolf. Lately I have been observing that these if-then sentences creep in. I notice it right away. Most of the time I manage to brake myself and get around the corner again. In the past, however, I have said: “If XY doesn't work now, then I won't get you any ice cream afterwards.” My daughter then cried a lot and I understood immediately that what I was saying was so completely makes no sense and is a punishment. I immediately retracted my statement and explained to her at eye level that I am currently very overloaded and that my nerves are running out. That I'm sorry. I took her in my arms and comforted her. For another 2 days she was insecure and told me that I wanted to forbid her an ice cream. That's when I became really aware of the extent of punishment and what it does to my child. Once again I made a very clear decision against it.

Alternatives to penalties

What can you do when your nerves run out of steam and a punishment comes to mind? Here I introduce you 5 alternatives in front:


When you find yourself getting angry and wanting to yell at or punish your child, take a short break. Let him know that you have to leave the situation for a moment and calm down first. Conflicts cannot be resolved in anger. In addition, very few conflict situations in everyday family life require immediate intervention.

  • Get yourself a glass of water.
  • Maybe make yourself a coffee or tea.
  • Sit down briefly.
  • Count to 10.
  • Breath deep.

Your child will likely benefit from a break too. Together you can then talk about the conflict and try to find an appropriate solution.

Find alternatives for your child's behavior

Instead of always telling your child what not to do, explain what they can do instead. So if he wants to paint the wall, offer him paper. If they want to pour the water glass at the table, ask them if they want to splash around in the bathtub, etc. Remember: Our children don't want to annoy us, they want to discover the world.

Question your expectations

Could it be that you are asking too much of your child? In some situations, is it just not ready to act differently? Often we expect too much from our children. Question yourself in your conflict situations.

Check your family rules

A family is a community and there are rules for living together, that's clear. The more rules there are here, the more you have to make sure that they are followed. Rules serve to ensure that the needs of all persons can be taken into account. However, depending on their age, children can only memorize a certain number of rules. In addition, they often do not know which rules are really important to us parents and which are not. A tip: check your rules! Are there any that are actually not that important? Which one do you really want to hold onto? Then communicate that with your child.

Change something

If you come across the same conflict with your child over and over again in everyday life, consider whether it is possible to change the strategy. For example, plan more time to cuddle in the morning or to discuss today's clothes.

Conclusion on penalties for children

Parents can easily slip if-then sentences off our lips in stressful situations. The more often we try to find nonviolent alternative actions in these stressful moments, the easier it will be for us to have a relationship with our child on an equal footing. We learn to look behind the behavior of our child and together we learn one peaceful solution to find. We will enjoy the cooperation of our child. Ultimately, our offspring only have one childhood and that should be full of love and not obedience.

How is your experience on the subject of “punishing children”? Do you have any other alternatives for punishment? We look forward to your comment and hope you enjoyed this post from us.

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