Parenting in Better Way: Replacing Physical Punishment

To create a healthier and more productive generation, parents have to stop using physical punishment which can cause injuries, traumas, aggression, criminality, antisocial behavior or even death. This article will inform parents about how to do parenting in a better way by replacing physical punishment.

The culture of giving physical punishment to children as a form of parenting is common not just in eastern culture but also in western culture. Some of us may remember being beaten with a long stick for not attending the morning ceremony or for being late to school.  Some of us might even remember being smack at home for refusing to do our parents’ wish. For centuries, physical punishment was part of parenting until it became a developmental scientist’s concern.

As a result of inappropriate actions by adolescents, parents prefer to use physical punishment (Carter-Davis & Bristow, 2018).  Some assume this is the best way to raise children as they have grown up with this kind of parenting as well. However, physical discipline can sometimes, in some case, lead to child violence.  A Medical Research Council (MRC) study found that 45% of all child homicides in South Africa were child violence and neglect-related in 2013. In the worst situations, parents with dysfunctional emotional states seem to feel that they have the right to give their children physical punishment in some manner that has caused significant injury, trauma, and even death.

Replacing Physical Punishment
Father scolds the child

The latest research indicates that physical punishment gives an effect on the children’s outcome behavior and mental wellbeing for children at an early age. Children tend to act negatively towards physical punishment.  That is the reason why physical punishment is not effective at changing short term behavior (Carter-Davis & Bristow, 2018). 

Instead, it affects the relationship between parents and children as it makes the children feel unloved. Extreme physical punishment has also resulted in increased brutality, crime, antisocial behavior, and continued action of doing physical punishment by child abused victims (Gershoff, 2002).

Therefore, it has become an urgent goal by educators or phycologists to raise awareness to replace physical punishment with a better approach of discipline to build a better way of parenting.

Sad looking child
Sad looking child

Punishment is a technical term that refers to the process in which the consequence of behavior results in decreasing the occurrence of the behavior (Miltenberger, 2008).

Punishment as a way of parenting does not have to be physical. There are two types of punishment; positive punishment, and negative punishment. Positive punishment is a condition for adding the nonphysical stimulus to the environment, while negative punishment is a condition for removing the desirable stimulus from the environment as the consequences of children’s undesirable behavior. The physical punishment itself is defined as a form of neither positive punishment nor negative punishment, offering only physical and emotional trauma and not altering the conduct effectively.

The nonphysical stimulus as the consequences of undesirable behavior of the children can be formed in verbal, undesirable sensory stimulus, or undesirable activity. For example, “you make me feel so sad,” “you’re being a bad kid right now and that’s not good,” or “it’s really bad and I don’t like that”, the instance of verbal stimulus to demonstrate the effects of undesirable behavior. 

In 1974, Sajwaj and colleagues have used this non-physical stimulation to regurgitate food case of an infant with a small amount of lime juice to induce infants to swallow food and avoid regurgitation of food. As a consequence of their unwanted actions, another type of non-physical stimulus is to give the children a time out. Removing the desirable stimuli of children such as toys or items they want from the environment may also be one of the ways to demonstrate the effects of the undesirable behavior of children.

Mother playing with child
Mother playing with child

Replacing physical punishment for a healthier form of parenting is effective in directing the undesirable behavior of children into desirable behavior. But to apply these parenting strategies, parents have to pay attention to certain things:

The capacity of children to consider their undesirable behavior and desirable behavior and how to properly perform desirable behavior.

At first, it is important for children to understand actions are desirable actions.  Then, they also need to know which of their behavior is undesirable, why it is deemed undesirable, and have to be taught how to execute the desired behavior.  Parents should explain why it is bad when children do undesirable things and have to teach using prompt and constructive guidance. By still providing verbal instruction, the prompt itself can be applied by guiding the hands, feet, or body; or visually demonstrating how the children can do it correctly while still giving verbal instruction.

Constructive advice also helps to guide children to remember the right actions they need to do.  It would confuse children and have less effect on any further improvement in actions by providing the implications of behavior without giving reasons and teaching children the correct way to behave.

Beautiful mother and child
Beautiful mother and child

The importance of reward.

A reward can also be used to increase desirable behavior. When children finally succeed in doing the desirable behavior, parents can give rewards to the children based on the agreement set by the parents. Both children and parents must agree on what reward children will obtain if they can properly perform desirable behavior. The rewards can be toys, food, or a token to increase the good behavior of the children.

Mother are giving a gift box
Mother are giving a gift box

To do the parenting in a better way is the way of creating a healthier and positive generation. By replacing physical punishment and applying much better and proper discipline, children can learn to do desirable behaviors without enduring trauma that can influence their development and their relationship with others, particularly with their parents. When children can evolve without a traumatic impact or traumatic experience of physical punishment, the future generation will not inherit the trauma. Rather, the proper methods and discipline will be extended to the future generation. Just like Frederick Douglas’s famous quote, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men,”.

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