Do You Punish Based on Fear?

Posted on Jan 17, 2013 by 2 Comments
Do You Punish Based on Fear?

I recently read an article by Sarah MacLaughlin, author of What Not to Say: Tools for Talking with Young Children, and someone I know professionally.

Her article, “Rethinking Fear,” was published in one of our local freebie newspapers, Parent & Family and it discussed how we, as parents, are often driven by fear … and how our punishments are often also driven by that fear, even if we don’t realize it.

In the article, Sarah talks about how often our children do something that could put them in danger (for example, running off in a parking lot) and our immediate reaction is to punish them … time out, the deprivation of a special treat, yelling at them not to do it again, or even swatting them on the bottom.

And it’s not necessarily because we feel like any of these things will keep them from ever doing it again, but more because our mind is still in the fear mode … our thoughts still with what could have happened rather than what really did happen.

The problem with punishing our children when our mind is still racing is that we’re not thinking about the effects of the punishment. By yelling at our children, we create a fear of our anger; by putting them in time-out, we create a fear of a withdrawal of our attention and closeness.

Sarah’s argument is that fearful children will often grow into sneaky children so they can get away with things without the consequence and fear that punishment bring.

From her stand, as parents we need to intrinsically motivate our children to behave well and to instill in them an understanding of why they need to behave in a certain way.

So, what do you think? Is any form of punishment fear based? Do you see yourself in any of these scenarios? I know I did.

photo credit: Cuito Cuanavale via photopin cc

Posted in: Parenting
Stacie McClintock

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  • Ruby T.

    Good point, that is fair to say we react with fear in some circumstances. But how do experts suggest we, “intrinsically motivate our children to behave well and to instill in them an understanding of why they need to behave”?

    That’s the tricky part.

  • modernbaby

    Does anyone else consider “time out”s ill-placed? As in it’s the Mommy (or Daddy) who actually needs the time out than the child. Just wondering. Elaborate?