It is really difficult to talk about punishment these days, but it is important to do so. One problem in discussing punishment arises from the strong feelings and values associated with punishment that are based on thousands of years of traditions. Another problem arises from confusing two distinct concepts of punishment: the traditional concept and the more recent concept in behavioral psychology.

When we succeed in making children feel punished, we sometimes mistakenly believe that we are punishing their behavior. Even when our punishments are not producing results, we persist, secure in the knowledge that behavior will eventually change. But just because children feel punished does not mean that we have succeeded in punishing their behavior.

When we free ourselves from the mistaken belief that children must be punished for their misbehavior (a belief that has strong traditions) we can usually find creative ways to insure that misbehavior is punished effectively without having to punish children. Behavior is often punished by its natural consequences; there is no need for adults to impose additional punishment. Logical consequences are indicated whenever we cannot rely on natural consequences to teach children. Some natural consequences may be too dangerous; responsible adults have to protect children. Traditional punishments involve taking away something the child likes or imposing something the child doesn’t like that have nothing to do with the behavior. Logical consequences may also involve taking away something children like, but only something logically related to the misbehavior. Logical consequences are an effective means of teaching children responsibility.


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