Why are we drawn to using punishment?


Has using punishment and threats been your fallback lately? Read why it's not your fault and how to begin making small changes at home.

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Guilt lead parenting is a real thing and it is effecting families everywhere. If you are doubting yourself or left feeling guilty after losing your temper with your children, then please, please know that you are not alone. Here is why it is easy to lose our temper and why we should stop blaming ourselves and begin with loving and accepting that it is a natural part of being human. Once we accept this about ourselves we can truly commit to being the parent we want to be.

Understanding why some parents are drawn to punishment begins with a closer look at natural brain function. Ever question your own big reactions to your child's behaviour? You may find this overview very helpful in beginning to make real changes at home.

With amazing resources available through simple searches on the internet it may seem surprising how many parents are still drawn towards blaming children for their behaviour and using punishment and shaming techniques to change it.

Before anyone gets on their high horse and says that those parents are "bad parents" or should "know better", or turns blame onto themselves "I should know better. I am messing up."...

I really want to draw attention to the natural way our brains think during a challenge.

When the brain experiences something unexpected or difficult there is a natural chemical reaction in the brain that amplifies problems. Our brains will begin seeking out "danger" and possible red flags. This is why anger and frustration can feel out of control sometimes, when feelings of happiness do not.

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Nobody says "I lost my thoughtfulness." or "I lost my joy." the same way we might say "I lost my temper."

This is due to our biological development.

My point is that it is natural, and therefore easier, to be drawn to problems and feel overwhelmed quickly leading to desperation and short term answers that yield fast results.

Yelling at a child or threatening to throw away their game console may have an immediate effect on their behaviour.

But, what about long term? And what does that "immediate effect" actually look like? Overusing punishment runs the risk of creating children that see themselves as helpless, useless and even hopeless. 

Questioning authority and resisting instructions is natural brain work. It is part of development.

Studies reveal that our goal as adult figures in a child's life should not be to remove resistance or control behaviour but boosting commonalities and teaching resilient thinking. These lead to overall cooperation when we see children as our equals. 

Decades of research has shown that genuine changes in habits and behaviour come from intrinsic self regulation, not relying on consequences (threats and bribes). While consequences play a role in teaching, we must be including intrinsic skill building as well such as resilience and self-esteem (just to start!).

Want to learn how to get others on board with your new gentle parenting regime? Read our article here. 


About the author Stephanie Wicker is a child behaviour expert, parenting educator, counsellor and speaker - who has successfully guided families through early childhood for over 15 years. Through her experience with private consultancy, as a preschool teacher and special needs therapist - she has worked across the many facets of early childhood behaviour. 

Stephanie's evidence-based programs are grounded in behaviour science and her passion for Relational Frame Theory (RFT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and developmental psychology all play a big role in her programs.

Stephanie’s experience covers early intensive behaviour intervention programs for children with special needs and for families newly diagnosed. She hosts live training events all over Australia, where she shares her practical solutions and language techniques, along with providing private, in-home therapy sessions for those seeking more personalised support. 

Through her company, Simply Kids she provides family resources such as digital books and educational activities, designed to keep behaviour simple. 

"By helping parents place emphasis on connection, empowerment and encouragement, I believe that all children have the ability to reach their full potential." - Stephanie Wicker

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