Saturday, September 30, 2006

What About Punishment?

Here is the handout I give my students. I have the sources at the bottom!
                                                  What About Punishment?

Is Punishment Ideal?

Punishment is a method in suppressing inappropriate behaviors quickly & may be warranted in emergencies, such as when a child is going to touch a hot stove. But many learning theorists agree that punishment is usually undesirable, especially in rearing children, for the following reasons:

1. Frequent punishment may lose it effectiveness, thus the punishment's severity will continue to increase to the point of severe side effects occurring.

2. Punishment does not in itself suggest an alternative, acceptable form of behavior.

3. Punishment tends to suppress undesirable behavior only under circumstances in which its delivery is guaranteed. It does not take children long to learn that they can "get away with murder" with one parent or one teacher, but not with another.

4. Punished children may escape or avoid the situation & or punisher! Severely punished children may run away, cut class, or drop out of school.

5. Punishment can create strong emotional responses, including fear, anxiety, anger and hostility, and resentment (Staus & Gelles, 1986; Parke & Slaby, 1983).

6. Punishment may generalize too far. The child who is punished severely for bad table manners may stop eating altogether. Overgeneralization is more likely to occur when children do not know exactly why they are being punished and when they have not been shown acceptable alternative behaviors.

7. Punishment may be modeled as a way of solving problems or coping with stress. One way that children learn is by observing others. Children may either hit smaller siblings or destroy objects in the home. And even though children may not immediately perform the behavior they observe, they may perform it later on, even as adults, when their circumstances are similar to those of the MODEL. For example, many child abusers were beaten by their own parents (Simons, et al., 1991).

8. Children who are severely punished may become withdrawn, inhibited, and less active than other children.

9. When punishment is unpredictable and inescapable, both animals & humans may helpless and depressed.
Making Punishment More Effective


Should punishment be absolutely necessary, using the following guidelines will minimize the side effects of punishment & make it much more effective:

1. Don't use punishment at all if you can discourage the inappropriate behavior in other ways. One of the major flaws in punishment is that it only tells the child what NOT to do! First see what will happen if you ignore the behavior. Of course not a child touching a hot stove etc. but a less severe misbehavior. Next try reinforcing the appropriate behavior. Many times the inappropriate behavior willdrop-out.


2. Punish with kindness and respect. Retain the self-respect of the one being punished. Do not punish a person in front of others, if at all possible.


3. Apply punishment during or immediately after the inappropriate behavior. One of the fundamental mistakes in the use of punishment is delaying punishment, such as, "Wait until your father (or mother) gets home..." This example also explains the ineffectiveness of punishment on pets when they misbehavior while owners are away & then punished when they return.


4. Use punishment just severe enough to be effective. It is best to use the minimal amount of punishment needed to stop the inappropriate behavior.


5. Make punishment consistent. When parents are inconsistent about punishing a particular behavior (either between parents or over time with one parent) they create more confusion than learning.

6. Explain the punishment. Punishment is most effective when the reasons for the punishment are explain to the children in methods appropriate for their age. Again, this is a major reason why punishment is less effective in pets.


7. Minimize dependence on physical punishment. Punishment should not be relied upon on a consistent basis when alternative methods will provide much more effective changes in behavior. Physical punishment usually has a temporary attention, whereas other methods of punishment such as withdrawal of privileges can give children hours to contemplate the wisdom of changing their ways.


8. Make sure to remove all sources of reinforcement. Many times punishment is not needed, as well as, less effective because other sources of reinforcement are strengthening the inappropriate behavior. Such as the class-clown who is punished by the teacher but it reinforced in many different ways by fellow classmates!


9. Be willing to admit your mistake if you wrongfully punish someone or if you punished too severely.


** Remember: One should want to behave well to receive your praise,

rather than fear your punishment!!




Coon, D. (1995). Introduction to Psychology: Exploration & Application; West Publishing Co, St. Paul, MN 6th Ed).

Dworetzky, J. (1996). Introduction to Child Development: West Publishing, St. Paul, MN (6th Ed.).

Etaugh, C., & Rathus, S. (1995). The World of Children: Harcourt Brace & Company, Orlando, FL.

Meyers, D. (1996). Exulorin2 Psycholo2Y: Worth Publishing, New York, NY, (3rd Ed).

Seifert, K., & Hoffnung, R. (1997). Child and Adolescent Development: Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA

4th Ed.).

Weiten, W. (1995). Themes & Variations: Brooks/Cole Publishing Co., Pacific Grove, CA, (3rd Ed).


jadejonez04 said...

I really really liked this "class"....  I couldn't agree MORE in so many ways.  I was a child of OVERPUNISHERS... I mean you didn't clean the toilet right, your head was shoved IN the toiled to see what mistakes you made......  With my son, I have read a lot about POSITIVE reinforcement, and I certainly DO NOT want to copy the sins of my parents... However we are all bound to make mistakes, right?  This was fascinating, I love physchology anyhow I have always had an interest in it.  HUGS

rebuketheworld said...

I remember when my sister and I stole candy. We were hmm,I think 8 or 9 years old...what was our punishment? sister had to dump her hands in hot boiling water for a few seconds,,and I had to put mine and hold them on a hot burning stove.........

did that work?,,my sister ended up stealing alot in high school....,,there was only fear from dad and love from mom,,lack and gain,,,mixing chaos....

crazy how unsound many are  -Raven

swibirun said...

Good food for thought.  Thanks for the info!


lurkynat said...

Gee Deborah!
I wish that schools would follow your lead in this!